Jean Nemeth - Survey Monkey vs. Survey Gizmo

Free Web-Based Survey Tools Comparison




When designing a research study that requires surveying participants, utilizing an online survey tool can be quite helpful. These types of tools provide templates, question design options, automatic data collection and analysis, tutorial support, and access to online help centers. Though many survey design companies offer highly customizable survey tools, these tools and individual support features can be quite expensive (e.g. Survey Wizard,, offers account services that can cost upwards of thousands of dollars per year).


However, there are a number of web-based companies that offer free or low cost options for simple, concise survey design which effectively meets the needs of the majority of social science research efforts. Two examples of these types of applications are Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo. In keeping with the topic of PhD Research Design, this review will focus primarily on the design features of each of these tools. In addition providing background description and information about each company, a direct features comparison and analysis of the advantages of each free level platform will be offered. To aid this comparative evaluation, simple surveys were designed using each of these tools, and members of the PhD Research Design group field tested both formats by taking the surveys. The reviewer was then able to follow the process through to determine whether the question formats had the ability to produce data that aligned with the surveyor’s intent while becoming familiar with each tool’s data collection and analysis capabilities.

Survey Monkey


Survey Monkey is perhaps the best known of the free/low-cost web-based survey design tools. Founded in 1999 by Ryan Finley, Survey Monkey claims to be the “world’s leading provider of web-based survey solutions” (http://www.survey aspx). The company presently has offices in Palo Alto, California, Portland, Oregon, and Madeira, Portugal. Touting over four million users, including 100% of the Fortune 500 Companies, the website contains numerous testimonials from companies such as Campbell’s Soups, Health Partners, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (  Listed applications include marketing research, event planning, customer feedback, product planning, and education and training: 


We offer a cost-effective, web-based survey solution that enables you to quickly and efficiently gather quality consumer insights, on your own. Whether you're looking to gather a large volume of quantitative consumer data or explore the softer side of consumer opinion to uncover emotions, thoughts and perceptions, we make the process easy (http://www.survey


Described as an “intuitive web-based survey tool,” Survey Monkey features three product levels: Basic (free), Pro ($19/month), and Unlimited ($16.67/month billed annually at $200) ( After completing a very straightforward account set-up procedure, users can begin to design simple, brief surveys in the Basic (free) format. However, if the need for greater flexibility, volume, or support services arises, existing surveys can be quickly upgraded to the paid Pro or Unlimited Levels with the click of a button. The overall process is easy to complete and real time data collection results are immediately accessible to the user.


Examples of customer testimonials provided on the Survey Monkey website: (


Survey Monkey makes it easy to conduct, manage, and analyze research that drives our business forward,” Sheila Normile, Market Researcher, FACEBOOK.

"Survey Monkey helps me get the insight of a big marketing machine at the speed and cost of a start-up,” Brady Wood, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, SHMOOP


“Survey Monkey makes gathering student feedback and organizing campus events almost too easy,” Anne Ho, Graduate Teaching Assistant/Student, University of San Franisco





Survey Gizmo


By comparison, Survey Gizmo is a much more recent entry into the field of web-based survey products. Founded in 2006 by partners Christian Vanek and Scott McDaniel, Survey Gizmo is the main product of Widgix LLC. This Boulder, Colorado company of 16 employees presently has customers in 64 countries, surveys running in 129 countries, and plans for major expansion this year. Product applicability includes market research, job applications, marketing campaigns, blogs, sales tracking, and research. Customers include Apple, Adobe, General Mills, and the American Cancer Society ( about/).

Survey Gizmo is described as a

“Software tool for designing online surveys, collecting data and performing analysis. Our tool supports a variety of online data collection methods including online surveys, online quizzes, questionnaires, web forms, and landing pages"  (


Five product levels are offered: Free, Personal ($19/month), Pro ($49/month), Enterprise ($159/month), and Dedicated ($599+/month). As expected, the features, customization options, and individualized support increase and expand commensurate with the expense. Of note for PhD students, Survey Gizmo offers a special Student Feature which upgrades the Free option to Enterprise Level which is highly suitable for dissertation work (


Examples of customer testimonials: (


“We are creating a survey to be completed by people who are visually impaired so accessibility is our foremost concern. We’ve tried both Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo. SG seems to be more compatible with screen readers and the customer service and support with Survey Gizmo is better by far!” Deborah Duffy, Research Specialist, University of Pennsylvania


“ offers an easy to use, powerful tool which can make implementing your survey a snap,” Derek Levine, Dream Researcher,


“Love your product, love your service, love your upgrades. I researched many online survey products and yours is by far the best. And, it’s a terrific value. It’s so rich in design and analysis features–every survey I create with SurveyGizmo is better than the last.” Jean Crooks, Ed.D., Principal, A2 Research

Graduate students are in dire need of low-cost, effective survey tools for thesis research. Thank you for recognizing this gap and providing students with a quality framework.”  David Czuba, Graduate Student, Green Mountain College

I will certainly recommend SurveyGizmo services. They are very professional and accurate in their work. They also deal very easily with complex surveys with show/hidden questions and this is really a value added that I did not found in other companies. I also appreciate the human touch of the support persons.” Maria   Bueno, Programme Manager, DRN Srl



Features Comparison: Free Versions of Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo

Template Design



16 Background colors

Single template design

Single font feature

Multiple background colors

Choice of templates--

     Customizable templates

Custom fonts

Question design


15 Question type choices—

      set formats

Up to 10 questions/survey

Back-up feature-add question

       above/below last question

Multiple languages

Branching/jumping feature

20 Question type choices—

       Customizing options

Unlimited questions/survey

Drag/Drop question reordering

Multiple language

Branching/jumping features

Can embed image/media from external sources


1 account/user name

 Unlimited short surveys

100 responses/survey

1 account/user name

Unlimited surveys

250 responses/month

   (student upgrade to 500/mo.)

  Data never deleted

Survey Publishing

Create link to webpage or your


Upload your email list & SM

      sends invites to participants

Create pop-up on your webpage  

Use Facebook

Free default link

Embed link in your website

NO email invites

Use Facebook/Twitter/Mail


Data Analysis

View responses online

Browse individual responses

View summaries for individual


Real time reports

View responses online

Browse individual responses

View summaries for individual


Integrate survey w/other data

Real time reports

View as graphs/pie charts/


Download data to CSV file for

     use in Excel etc.


55 p. pdf manual—including

   Best practice options

24/7 email support


Basic online support

Limited email support

Privacy Features

Password protection

Guaranteed Data Privacy

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)


Advanced technology data center  security

508 certified for accessibility

Password protection

Guaranteed Data Privacy

Forbids trading/use of customer 

     collected information

508 certified for accessibility

HIPPA (medical) & Safe Harbor 

     (European Union) Privacy Policy


Other Features

Available GOOGLE Apps.

Social Media friendly


Free Student Upgrade


500 responses/month

Export to SPSS

Save-Continue later feature

Page/question randomization

Random assignment to

   Experimental condition

Email support

MUST access from university

     Email account


Evaluation of Comparative Design Features:

Both Survey Monkey (SM) and Survey Gizmo (SG) provide accessible, user- friendly, and highly effective web-based tools for designing simple surveys. Both question design formats are fairly uncomplicated to use, though creating Likert Scale style items in either system proved somewhat more problematic than other types of entries. Response results are easily accessed within either format, and data manipulation, though slightly different, is simple and generally intuitive in both tools.

With its aforementioned four million users, Survey Monkey definitely has the edge in terms of name recognition and user familiarity. In addition to a dominant market share, this survey format’s longevity in the market points to its utility as a simple research tool.  In addition, the product is supported by extensive user manuals and tutorial offerings. Advanced privacy protection is available at all pricing levels. Online support is comprehensive both in terms of accessible information and direct email support.

As a more recent entry to the field, Survey Gizmo is attempting to create its own market niche by surpassing what is offered by its larger competitor both in available free design features and flexibility of use. A far wider range of customizing options is available at the free level than with Survey Monkey: more background colors, multiple font options (vs. one for SM), and totally customizable templates (only offered at paid levels in SM). SG offers a wider range of available question types (20 vs. 15 for SM), and SG’s drop & drag function makes survey re-organization a really easy and fun experience!  The ability to imbed media or pictures into the questionnaire (again not available in free format from SM) also makes Survey Gizmo far more expansive in its ability to provide content that goes beyond simple text-based questions.

Survey Gizmo's free features also surpass its competitor in terms of survey length (unlimited vs. a 10 question limit for SM) and in the number of responses collectable without paying for the service (250 vs. 100/survey). The ability to move data out of the online program (e.g. download to Excel) is another notable free feature exclusive to Survey Gizmo; Survey Monkey does not allow any removal of data from its site at the free level.

However, in terms of reaching ones audience, Survey Monkey definitely has the edge. Survey Gizmo only offers a free default link, the ability to embed a link in your own website, or survey dissemination through social media (Facebook, Twitter, or Mail Chimp). Survey Monkey provides more options and support, notably the ability to upload your email list and have SM automatically sent out participation invites and reminders. This automatic distribution option is a highly desirable time saving feature. SM also supports creating links to either a webpage or email as well as designing pop-ups. Moreover, SM offers continuous (24/7) email access to account support and customer service, while SG provides only very limited support access at the free level.  

Nonetheless, Survey Gizmo offers one very significant advantage: the Student Upgrade feature. By providing a university affiliated email address, students are able to apply for a FREE upgrade to Enterprise Level (normally $159/month). This level provides greatly expanded features including double the number of allowed responses/month (from 250 to 500), data export to analysis tools (e.g. to SPSS), unlimited direct customer support (phone/email), and far more flexible design features and data manipulation.

However, it should be noted that there is a hidden step to this upgrade. Once the application is submitted, an email is sent to the student’s university affiliated address to finalize the account. This email indicates that students must provide their Facebook access prior to acceptance. When contacted concerning this undisclosed requirement, a Survey Gizmo representative (very promptly) replied that it is the company’s policy to connect with the student’s Facebook in order to increase product visibility.


Building upon the qualitative data obtained by my pilot study, I presently intend to employ a web-based survey process to expand and illuminate these findings within my dissertation process. Though I originally assumed that I would use Survey Monkey to accomplish this task, this review has altered that opinion. Not only did I find Survey Gizmo to be a more comprehensive and flexible survey tool, the free student upgrade to Enterprise Level (only one level below the totally customizable and very expensive Dedicated Level) is definitely a deciding factor. As a matter of fact, I am in the process of setting up this upgraded account and intend to utilize it fully! Since I do not presently plan to set up a Facebook account, Survey Gizmo personnel are allowing me to use my husband's facebook (or you can use a friend's facebook); they also will allow use of a blog. I'm presently deciding which way to go and will complete my upgrade application. Excellent customer service, as repeatedly noted on their website, is a strong asset for this new competitor in the online survey market.