Fireside Chat: Aaron Wenger from Survata

Aaron Wenger is the Co-founder of Survata, an online market research service built with Firebase and Angular.

Why did you decide to build Survata?

We built Survata to enable anyone to gather consumer opinions to educate their decision making. Before Survata, people who wanted survey data to guide a decision could either pay a market research firm to poll the general public or use SurveyMonkey to poll their friends and colleagues. For many uses, market research firms are too expensive and have too much bureaucracy; and friends and colleagues are often not representative of the group you need to poll. Survata lets anyone poll the general public at an affordable cost and with little overhead. Importantly, we still provide quality customer service and have an expert survey analyst work with all clients to ensure proper survey design. And that is where we use Firebase.

How does Survata use Firebase?

Survata uses Firebase in our survey creation tool and survey dashboards to facilitate communication between clients and our expert survey analysts. Firebase’s real time synchronization lets the Survata analyst collaborate with and advise clients as the client is designing a survey. The Firebase solution replaced our previous solution built on email and Google documents. It has greatly streamlined the survey design process.

What other technologies does Survata use?

Our web app is built in AngularJS, using AngularUI components and AngularFire bindings. We use RequireJS to manage JavaScript dependencies. Our backend uses PHP and MySQL. We use Zapier web hooks to connect to a variety of third party web services. Our non-interactive web pages (and components of our web apps) are statically built from Mako templates and served as simple HTML.

What does the future of consumer research look like? Any exciting features in the pipeline for Survata?

In the coming years, market research will be decentralized and democratizated, as businesses embrace the do-it-yourself model in place of hiring expert firms. The new model - championed by Survata and others - will open market research to many companies and individuals to whom it has not been accessible to date. As to what we have in the pipeline, we will soon be offering the ability to poll individuals outside of the United States. And we are working hard on a set of tools to help clients not only gather survey data but also analyze and understand that data; we are using Firebase there too to let clients see data as we gather it.

Do you have any advice for other developers using Firebase?

Survata embraced AngularJS and Firebase together, and the two technologies have dramatically improved the speed at which we develop new features. I would suggest that anyone starting with Firebase also examine AngularJS, as Firebase’s automatic model-server binding works nicely with AngularJS’s model-DOM binding. I also advise that you read the AngularFire source code once you’ve worked with Firebase for a few weeks; it helps you understand the functional and performance implications of the magic synchronization. Specifically, it is important to understand when new data from Firebase causes creation of a new object instead of an update to an existing one.