LimeInterview #1: Meet our partner "Tools for Reseach"

LimeSurvey is not only about the software itself, but also about the community that revolves around it. Community that proposes features, finds bugs, and pushes fixes into our wonderful software. That is why we have decided to start publishing a series of interviews on our blog with our partners who have been helping our community thrive since its incipient phase.

The questions focus on how they first learned about LimeSurvey, how they work with the software, as well as the services developed by them for users. Today we will discuss with Tammo ter Hark, our partner from the Dutch company Tools for Research (Kleine Stappen), who actively helps users on our forum, providing also professional LimeSurvey and consulting services to clients who wish to use the software professionally.

Tammo ter Hark

Q: When and for what project did you use LimeSurvey the first time?
A: We encountered LimeSurvey for the first time in 2009 while doing a project for an insurance company. That was both a success and a failure: we saw the possibilities of LimeSurvey at first sight and we jumped right in. We made one mistake: we developed a sophisticated theme (by standards of 2009) specifically for one survey, but forgot to ask the customer what browser they were using. That turned out to be Internet Explorer 6, which was in 2009 already very outdated.

We successfully finished the project (eventually) by placing LimeSurvey (and XAMPP) on a USB stick, which was used on dedicated PCs in the offices of the customer (on PCs with modern browsers installed).

So, in the end we could collect the data, learning at the same time a lot during our first LimeSurvey-related project. Of course, many others have followed.

Q: When did you start your business?
A: We started in 2009, after I left TNO (Dutch Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) and teamed up with Jan Ehrhardt to start "Tools for Research". Happily working since then in making the life of research professionals easier.

Q: Tell us about your company and your team.

A: The two of us still own "Tools for Research". In the meantime, we have built a great team around us - made of a talented graphic/UX designer, several psychologists, and survey colleagues - who is already ready to help when times get rough.

Next to working with LimeSurvey, we have specialized in working with Drupal and WordPress. We work with organisations located all over the world, having many customers from the Netherlands and USA.

Q: Are you or your colleagues active in the LimeSurvey community (forum or Discord chat)?
A: I attend periodically the IRC meetings and read the forum almost daily, Jan being the guy that you would see on GitHub.

Q: Which services do you offer as LimeSurvey authorized partner?
A: We want to focus on building surveys with beautiful and very responsive themes, as well as on reporting through R and Rmarkdown.

Q: Do you offer themes, questionnaires, or plugins in the LimeStore?
A: In 2016 we developed our own theme (TFR Responsive), then for the 2.06 version of LimeSurvey. That was sold through the great store of Marcel Minke. There was (and still is) a free version on our website.

We started working on a similar theme for LimeSurvey 3.x, which is now in development and freely available on GitHub. We are waiting for the LimeStore to open to have our theme(s) available there.

Q: Are there any plans for new plugins or services you are going to offer?
A: We would really like to team up with other developers to make reporting easier. Currently, the tools are not adequate for the needs of the organisations we work for. We use the open source software R for that, looking at the moment for ways to make the whole process easier, since R has a steep learning curve. We would love to work on combined screens and document reporting via Shiny and RMarkdown.

Q: What would you recommend to a person who uses LimeSurvey for the first time?
A: Start with small steps, do not try eat this elephant in one meal. Find a coach and learn by doing. Remember that many users will possibly use mobile phones (depending on your use case) and that several question types will look differently on mobile phones and large screens. Make sure you test your survey on multiple devices (browsers, PCs, tablets, and so on).

Q: Do you have a special tip for advanced LimeSurvey users?
A: Not really, but we would like to meet them to discuss how they tackle certain challenges.

Q: Tell us about your most interesting or challenging LimeSurvey project.
A: We needed to make sure that a group of young people with certain mental disabilities would answer a periodical survey (every two weeks). We developed a way of inviting them via SMS and making sure they could fill in the survey in 2 minutes. And send them a nice "thank you" message (also by SMS) as soon as they had finished the survey. This proved to work well, response rate was higher than expected, and the respondents felt "heard".

Q: What are you truly passionate about?
A: Making things easier.

If you would like to find out more about Tammo & his team, please check their website. You can also address them questions on the forum.

In case you would like to find out more about our network of partners, visit the following website.

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