Invite and Track


Invite and Track invites participants to take a survey, tracks whether they have or not, and allows sending reminders to those who haven't.

Invite and Track sends e-mail to people in an Invite List. The e-mail consists of an invitation or a reminder, or the survey itself. A review of each field on this page follows.

Composing the Invitation

Select invite list. Choose from a defined list in the drop-down menu. If no lists have been defined, or to create a new list or modify an existing list, click on the Open the List link, right next to the selection box, if one is available. If no link is present, that means that the Administrator is the only person who can create and modify lists; contact your Administrator and, once the list is created, it will be visible in the Select invite list menu.

Compose E-mail. Enter a valid e-mail address in the From address field. Optionally, enter a valid Reply to address. These must be legitimate addresses to which people can reply. If they are not, there's a good chance that this e-mail will be classified as spam. In the Subject field, provide a meaningful subject line.

In Format, select Plain Text or HTML. Which one to use depends on the survey's audience. In an Intranet survey, where a company has standardized on an HTML-capable e-mail client, HTML mail is a good choice. For other audiences, Plain Text is the only safe choice.

If the survey is a single-page survey (as specified in the Setup / General page), a Body option allows choosing between Invitation and Embedded Survey. If this option does not appear, only Invitations may be sent. When a single-page survey is embedded in the e-mail, visitors will see the actual survey form in the e-mail and can respond by simply answering the questions and pressing the Submit button in the survey. Because embedded surveys must be sent in HTML format, they are recommended only for Intranet surveys where the e-mail client is expected to display HTML.

When mailing an Invitation, a text box allows entering the invitation text as either Plain Text or HTML, as chosen. Click on the write sample body link to see a draft of a very simple e-mail with ALL the correct parameters, such as the survey URL, included in it. This option is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as it is takes into account the type of survey and the Authentication method you are using and composes an e-mail that is just right.

To send a complex e-mail, such as an HTML-formatted invitation in a corporate standard, after pressing Submit, use the Upload button to upload a file; after uploading, the file contents will appear in the box where it can be edited further.

Authentication and Tracking

An Invitation list used for mailing must contain an e-mail address. It may also contain a User Name, which can be used to personalize an invitation or survey (see Personalization, below).

In order to track survey-takers progress and send them reminders, an appropriate Authentication option is required in the Security page. The choice of method to use depends first of all on whether the Invite List contains User IDs, as well as e-mail addresses, as follows. Please note that Basic authentication refers to both Basic HTTP Authentication and to Web Application also known as Container Authentication. Most single-sign on systems work with this authentication method.

In Portals. An invitation list may contain just a User ID, to specify who is allowed to take a survey. It may contain email addresses as well. When only an ID is used, the portlet must use the "Show all available" mode. The questionnaire should use Portal authentication.

No User ID's available. When the Invite list contains e-mail addresses and does not contain User ID's, it is still possible to track, by using the "Question" authentication method, in which a hidden question is created to hold the user ID, and the user ID is pre-populated using the e-mail address. To see how this works, create a hidden question, then select it in the Question authentication method, and click on Write Sample Body. You will see that the email uses a special URL for the survey, like this:[/email_in_list]&pollid=pollingplace!poll&cmd=page
This makes it possible to track a survey's progress and send reminders when all that is available is a list of e-mail addresses. The drawback is that, because the entire URL is visible inside the e-mail, there is no guarantee that the person who is taking the survey is actually that person, since the e-mail can be forwarded to anyone, and the recipient can take the survey simply by clicking on the survey URL. For that reason, when using Question authentication, we rate the security of this method Low.

It is also possible to choose No authentication, or Anonymous authentication, or any other method when the Invite list doesn't include User ID's. In this case, because there is no known relationship between e-mail addresses and User ID's, the Tracking options are turned off, and there's no way to send reminders to people who have not completed a survey. It is still possible to send a reminder e-mail to everyone, keeping in mind that the e-mail will be received both by those who have completed the survey and those who haven't.

User ID available. When the Invite list contains User IDs as well as e-mail addresses, it is possible to set up highly secure surveys. Begin by choosing the Basic, IIS, Cookie, Header, Attribute or Role authentication methods in Security. All these methods rely on system-wide or network-wide authentication systems already in place. When the visitor is presented with the Survey URL, they will be asked to authenticate appropriately, usually with their user ID and password, biometric information, magnetic card, etc. The ViewsFlash application, after the visitor is authenticated, will know the user ID for the visitor. It will then check further to see that the visitor is on the Invite list, unless a Security page option specifically allows visitors not on the list to take the survey.

With an authenticated user ID on the list, Tracking is enabled, and the survey process is Highly secure.

UserID and Passwords. Occasionally, a situation arises where there is no central authentication authority, but reasonably strong authentication is desired. In this case, make sure the Invite list contains both UserID's and passwords, copied from some central repository. Then choose the Form Authentication option in Security. When using these options, visitors will be presented with a Login page at the beginning of the survey, asking them to provide an ID and password that must match the entries in the Invite list. The Invitation may or may not include the User ID and the password, depending on the likelihood that the visitor will know what it is. For example, if the User ID is the employee's social security number and the password is their birth date, there is no need to include them in the e-mail Invite and the survey security is High. Conversely, if the User ID and password are not likely to be known by visitors, then both must be included in the e-mail, whose security will now be Low. To see how to include User IDs and passwords in the e-mail see Personalization below.

EMail addresses only. It is not unusual to have a list of members, with e-mail addresses, that need to fill out a questionnaire, but there is no web server authentication or single sign-on system available that they can use to register before completing the questionnaire. For this case, use Form Authentication, and set up an invite list the uses the email address as a user ID. When the login form is displayed, there will be no password field, the entered email address will be compared against the entries on the list, and the user will be rejected if the email address is not on the list. It is also possible to send inviation e-mails to these users by using the same field for both the user ID and the e-mail address.

Here are some examples of common authentication scenarios. The suggested authentication methods are listed most recommended first. The security level refers to the ability to impersonate a survey taker; a level of High can be achieved by configuring the web server and application server environments appropriately.

Scenario User ID's on Invite List Typical authentication method Security level
Employees authenticated on Intranet Yes Basic, IIS High
Members who have an e-mail address Yes Form, without password Medium (email address can be guessed)
Special purpose IDs and passwords Yes Form Low-High (depending on UserID and Password visibility in invitation)
Extranet visitors using single-sign-on Yes Basic, IIS High
Portal with logged in visitors Yes Portal High
Portal with anonymous visitors No Portal Low
Visitors who left an e-mail address No Question Low; use Form instead
Anonymous No Cookie Low
Anonymous No Session with captcha Low, but better than just Cookie

Please note again that the write sample body link takes all these settings into account. Select an Invite List, select an Authentication method in Security, then use this link to produce a sample message with the correct survey URL for the options chosen.

Inviting and Tracking

The Survey Tracking section includes buttons for sending the e-mail prepared above to different groups of people.

New. Click on this button to e-mail people who have never been invited before. If the list has changed (e.g., employees added since the first time mail was sent, or a different WHERE clause selects a different pool of recipients), only those who have not received an e-mail before will be sent one.

Retry. Click this button to try sending the current e-mail text to those people who were invited but whose emails failed to deliver. This is useful in situations where a class of recipients, such as people inside or outside an intranet, were not reachable by the mail server because of a configuration error.

Remind. Click on either of these buttons to send the current e-mail text. The first Remind button e-mails those people who have not started completing the survey at all. The second Remind button e-mails those who have started the survey but haven't completed it yet; in the case of a single-page survey, only one of these buttons is present.

Everyone. Click on this button to send the current e-mail text to everyone, regardless of whether they have already started or finished the survey.

Cancel. When working with a large list, if you realize you have pressed one of these buttons in error, pressing Cancel will stop further e-mails from being sent.

If the person using an Invitation List has the right to modify it, two links appear: View List and View List in Excel. These links provide a detailed view of who has been invited to participate, who has completed their questionnaire, and their characteristics.

Personalization and Mail Merge

All fields in the Invite List can be used to personalize the body of an e-mail invitation and the survey as well. To use them, simply include the following tags in the body of the invitation, or in a survey title or a survey question:

Field Tag
User name [/username_in_list]
User ID [/userid_in_list]
E-mail address [/email_in_list]
Password [/password_in_list]

For example, consider the following invitation:
Dear [/username_in_list],
We would like to invite you to take a survey.

When this is sent to Peter Duchin, it will look like:
Dear Peter Duchin,
We would like to invite you to take a survey.

The same notation can be used inside a survey, a survey question, or a survey response page. The mechanism used is essentially the same as for Piped Variables.

Additional fields can be used in the body of the email when the Participants API is used. Use the names of the additional columns available in the VWFTRACKING emailing table like this:
The survey concernts building [/custom], located in region [/region].

How to Test and Run the survey

After pressing the Submit button in step 3, send yourself a test e-mail by filling in your e-mail address and pressing Send test e-mail. An e-mail will be sent to that address. The user name, if used in personalization, will be "Tom Jefferson". This is only a preliminary test, designed to see any obvious problems. The complete testing sequence is shown below.

1. Construct the survey questionnaire and response pages and check with Preview. On the Publish page, open the survey by clicking on Now next to the opening date.

2. Select an Authentication method appropriate to the survey. See Authentication above.

3. Create an Invite List with fields that are appropriate to the authentication method. See Fields to Use. If you have the right to modify the list, create a small comma-delimited list of test users; if not, ask your administrator to create two lists with the same fields: one for testing and one for the production survey. Use View List to make sure that the list contains who and what you expect.

4. Create an e-mail invitation, selecting the test Invite List and other parameters. Examine the Status field for any warnings and correct any problems indicated.

5. Send a test e-mail to yourself and correct any problems you see.

6. Use New to send an e-mail to the test population of people who will examine and sign-off on the survey. Gather feedback, make any modifications required.

7. To repeat the test, go to the Publish page and be sure to check "Delete all data" and press Submit. This will remove all information about the test surveys gathered so far or in progress.

8. Once everything is ready to go, go to the Publish page, check "Delete all data" again and press Submit.

9. Go to the Invite page. If using a test list, switch to the production list and press Now to send the initial invitations.

10. After a while (days usually), return to the Invite page, and send a Reminder if appropriate.

11. Once you are satisfied with the response, close the survey by entering a closing date in the Publish page.

12. Analyze the survey data and results.

Next: Invite Lists