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What is LimeSurvey

LimeSurvey (formerly PHPSurveyor) is a survey-creation tool designed to help users collect information from (and about) respondents. Available either as a free download or a one-click install, this software is helpful in creating targeted marketing campaigns and evaluating their efficacy.

Effective marketing starts with good information, the cornerstone of successful marketing campaigns is a comprehensive effort to examine and understand your potential customers. Who they are, where they live, and what they like are just some of the key components to building targeted marketing that engages and converts.

The Internet provides us with numerous options for collecting this raw data, ranging from cookies, data mining solutions and tracking software. However, at a time when an increasing number of people are becoming aware of online privacy issues, some of these methods can prove unpopular.

Surveys can deliver more accurate and valuable information

Surveys are another, more straightforward and direct way of collecting data – simply ask your customers what they think and need. While a bit more painstaking, this approach is also targeted and results in less useless raw data.

Of course, surveys predate the Internet, but they remain one of the best ways to collect specific and valuable information that may not be easy to attain via cookies, data mining or other methods.

Since you control the questions, you control the context, the target audience and the information doesn't have to be harvested from the Internet – you go directly to the source, getting specific answers from a specific demographic. Users also have an incentive to participate in online surveys, as they can help improve services they rely upon, or alternatively, be combined with giveaways and other promotional programmes.

What are your options?

When it comes to online surveys, there are a number of different options. Some serices, like Survey Monkey, QuestionPro, Qualtrics or SurveyGizmo, are hosted on their proprietary servers and users merely need to sign up.

Others can be hosted on your own server and LimeSurvey falls into this category. Alternatives that can be installed on your server include StatPac, SurveyCrafter, Remark and Opinio.

Some services specialise in mobile surveys. Kinesis Survey Technologies and OnePoint dominate this emerging niche.

LimeSurvey owes much of its popularity to the fact that it is free and open source. LimeSurvey was formerly known as PHPSurveyor and, as the name suggests, it is written in PHP. It uses MySQL for database management, which means there is an abundance of developers who can get to grips with it. This fact also helps make LimeSurvey more popular.

Installing LimeSurvey, hosting considerations

Hardware requirements for LimeSurvey are low. It requires less than 100MB of storage, a fresh version of MySQL or Microsoft SQL Server, as well as PHP 5.x or later, with a few common modules.

Although it is a good idea to check whether your host supports the necessary PHP and MySQL versions, the vast majority of hosts do. While LimeSurvey is a free download, it may have an effect on system resources depending on the number of scope and surveys you create. This could incur additional costs in case you are not careful, but this should not be an issue for most users.

You can create an unlimited number of surveys, with unlimited questions and an unlimited number of participants, in multiple languages. In case you go too far, you may exceed your bandwidth, run out of storage or place too much load on your server, but most users won't have to worry about this potential problem.

Many providers offer LimeSurvey as a one-click install via their hosting control panels, making the process even easier.

Hassle-free surveys

Once installed, LimeSurvey lets you create surveys through a simple to use What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor or a more advanced HTML editor. You can set each question in one of 28 categories, and built-in question logic modules allow for context-dependent answers (handy for participants to whom not all questions apply).

Surveys can be anonymous or require registration, can be set to expire automatically, and set up so that participants can pause their survey and return to finish it later.

LimeSurvey also allows you to create various contextual scenarios, changing the survey depending on input. Tokens can also be used and email support is integrated as well. Thanks to CSS support, it is possible to tweak the appearance to match your organisation's design language, but in case this is not necessary there are plenty of templates to choose from.

While it is free, LimeSurvey is a powerful tool with countless customization options and a range of features that should meet all online survey needs.

LimeSurvey Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I capture a survey participant’s information without requiring them to register?

    Yes. There are a couple of ways to manage this. The easiest way is to just add a field for name. If you don’t want to do that, you could utilize tokens to automatically link an individual’s information to their unique survey address.

  • What are Tokens?

    Tokens are unique codes embedded into a survey invitation that allow you to track who has responded to the survey and ensure that each person only participates once. Using the token features you can also send reminders to anyone who has not yet completed the survey, restrict access to just those individuals who received a token, and keep your responses anonymous while still having visibility to who has or has not responded.

  • Are the surveys text only, or can I include media files as well?

    LimeSurvey supports the integration of pictures and movie files into surveys. Keep in mind, this will increase the size requirements, so if server space is limited, you may want to limit the use of this feature.

  • How does LimeSurvey compare to other survey options?

    There are a number of survey options available. Some self-hosted, others cloud-based. Depending on your security needs, comfort-level with programming, and feature requirements, LimeSurvey may or may not be the best solution. If you’re comfortable configuring the software to your own server, LimeSurvey offers a flexibility and level of customization you won’t receive in a cloud-based service like Survey Monkey or SurveyGizmo. On the other hand, cloud-based solutions tend to be easier for novices to use. Other server-based solutions each offer their own strengths and vary considerably in terms of price. LimeSurvey remains a popular solution due to its free price point, support for a large number of languages, and for being highly customizable.

  • My server does not support MySQL. Can I still use LimeSurvey?

    Yes. LimeSurvey supports MySQL Server, Microsoft SQL Server, and Postgres Server.

  • Are there any pre-made surveys to get me started?

    Yes. A number of pre-built surveys are available for download on their website, some that you can use as is, others that are designed simply to showcase the various features of LimeSurvey.

  • Can I add LimeSurvey to my existing website?

    Yes. There are third-party modules available for both WordPress and Drupal.

  • What type of export functionality is available?

    Survey data can be exported in text, CSV, PDF, SPSS, R, queXML, and MS Excel formats. In addition, LimeSurvey allows you to analyze the information using basic statistical and graphical analysis and export the results.

  • How many languages are supported?

    At the time of this writing, over 50 languages were supported. A complete list of supported languages is available on their website. If you don’t see your language there, you can also create your own language file.

  • Can I encrypt survey responses?

    While not a standard features, the LSEncrypt plugin allows you to enable asymmetric response encryption, providing additional security for your survey participants.

  • What type of support is available?

    Like most open source projects, support is provided by a community of users. In addition to a thorough online documentation library, you can seek answers through the online forum and IRC channels. If you’ve identified a bug, you can report it online. In addition, if you are looking for professional level support or training, there are a number of LimeSurvey Partners who offer these services for a fee.

  • Is there any way to test it out before I install it?

    Yes. LimeSurvey lets you try out both a survey and the software. If you want to see what a typical survey will look like for your users, you can take their demo survey. Or if you want to get your hands wet and see just how easy it is to create your own surveys, you can run a full demo of their current stable version.

  • Can I suggest a new feature?

    Yes. If there’s a feature you’re looking for that is not available in the current version, you can make a request on their website for the feature to be added in a future release. Once a feature has been recommended, users can vote on the features they think would best benefit the community. Make sure to check the current list of recommend features before adding yours. If it’s already there, vote for it!

  • How can I contribute to LimeSurvey?

    LimeSurvey is eager for new developers to join the team. If you are interested, you should set up accounts on their website and GitHub pages, subscribe to their mailing list, and introduce yourself to the team.

  • What type of license is LimeSurvey issued under?

    LimeSurvey is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), meaning anyone can download the software and source code, use the software in any means they like, modify the source code in any way, and redistributed it. So long as they also do so under the terms of GPL.

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