This review originally was published on January 22, 2021, with the email subject line CT No. 70: "Everyone's invited to the first-party data party," alongside an essay about ethical first-party data collection.
Whether you’re a journalist, researcher, publisher, finding an alternative to basic web forms for data collection can be a minefield. Free survey tools have limited features for logic and data collection, and custom features like logic and white-labeling can add up quickly.
KoBo Toolbox is an open-source project from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, designed for humanitarian organizations, aid workers and data collection professionals. However, it’s free for all to use for involved research projects — such as audience or public interest surveys.
Would I use it for marketing if I have a marketing technology budget available? Probably not. That’s inviting bad karma all around. But if you’re on a strict budget and looking for more details about your audience or looking to explore a data-driven investigation, KoBo is an amazing resource.
KoBo Toolbox at a glance
KoBo enables all users to collect detailed data through logic-driven forms with multiple question types. It’s not sexy, but features:
- On- and offline data collection
- Supported across devices, with collaborative options for both data collection and analysis
- Reusable question blocks and advanced logic
- Import and export of existing XLSForms
- Secure data collection through SSL
- Immediate access to audience responses
- Attractive and functional data visualization
- Data exports (including SPSS) and API access
KoBo doesn’t feature embeddable forms or white-labeled branding, but it offers an extremely functional, professional workflow useful to anyone interested in data collection. I find it less buggy to create surveys with KoBo than Typeform, and that makes sense: it’s designed to perform in extreme situations, like humanitarian crises.
Even if you’re just looking to create a practice survey workflow and discover the types of questions, features and logic patterns you might need with a paid tool, KoBo offers significant flexibility at the low, low cost of free.