An online poll gives visitors to your website the ability to vote on an issue of your choice. The poll could be either a frivolous distraction, the entire purpose of your website or something in between. Surveys also gather user opinions, but contain more questions and require more input from participants. Online surveys are basically the next level up from polls. Essentially, the scope can range from a single yes/no question to an online government national census requiring detailed responses.
Poll and survey software record results to a database. If the survey software is located on the same server as the website, the data will usually be stored onsite. Alternatively if the survey form is embedded from a third-party provider, the results will likely be sent to an external database. Other functionality which is often included in survey software includes:
- Ability for participants to save their input midway and continue later.
- Logic to skip questions depending on the result of a previous question. For example, if the particpant answers ‘no‘ to the question ‘Do you watch TV?‘, you would skip the question about what their favourite TV show is.
- Help dialogs to explain questions to participants. Dialogs can be presented in popups or separate navigatable pages.
- Progress bar informing participants how much of the survey they’ve completed.
There are several pitfalls you’ll need to avoid if you intend to use a survey or poll for a serious purpose:
- If you want to ensure that voters cannot post more than one vote, you’ll need to implement some sort of verification process. You could restrict voting to once per individual IP address, but simply restarting a modem allows a person to vote again. A more robust method is to force voters to login with a username and password.
- Brigading – involves a voter recruiting others to their cause via social media or forums. This can artificially weigh an issue to one side in a vote.
- Voters will tend to be web savvy and this can skew results toward whatever that demographic thinks. So if you want to know the opinion of retirees for example, an online survey may not be suitable.
Online Poll Tools
You can easily integrate polling functionality into a WordPress website by using the Gravity Forms plugin and then extending it with the Gravity Forms Polls add-on.
If you want to embed a form from a third party provider then any of the following are good options:
These services allow you to quickly create a poll and embed it into your website.
Wikipedia survey data collection article