Web polls

One of the most popular features of a web site is the web poll, and anyone who is involved with the development of a web site should consider using them.

Web polls enhance the look of a site, and properly and cleverly done, they give readers a chance to physically participate in the site and the information that is there.

Fortunately, it does not take much in the way of programming to get a poll onto your site, to make it look good, and to keep up with the results. A number of free services offer to generate polls for your site and to maintain the results.

One of those services is BasicPoll.com. (This is not an endorsement of this particular service. There are plenty out there, and you should test a few to see which you are most comfortable with.) We found BasicPoll when we were searching around for a service that is free and would be appropriate for EHCWired.com, the news web site of the Department of Mass Communications at Emory & Henry College.

The following describes how BasicPoll works:

The first step is registration. You will need to establish a login name and password and you need to give the site the URL of the web site for which you will be generating the polls.

With that done, the process is simple. You will be given a dashboard of tools (Number 1) from which you can choose any operation you need to perform.

When you want to generate a new poll, the site will take you to a table (Number 2) that contains all of the polls that you have created. At the bottom of that list is a link to “Add New Poll.”

A new table (Number 3) asks you for a title for the poll, the question you want to ask and the responses that you want to offer to the users. BasicPoll allows as many as 20 responses. At the bottom of this table are a number of options that will affect how the poll looks. A preview mode lets you see how the poll will look. (You can also change the colors and some of the other items when you get the HTML code generated.)

Once you are satisfied with the way the poll looks, you click on the “Generate HTML” button and are taken to a page with a window that contains the HTML code for the poll (Number 4). Click inside this window, Select All, and Copy. You can then paste this code anywhere on your site.

When it is live on the site, a user can simply select one of the answers and then click on “Vote!” That will take the visitor to a page that the BasicPoll web site has created to show the results of your responses. There will be a link on that page that goes back to your site.

Polls such as this one are not scientific surveys, of course, and are not representative of any population. It may not be a bad idea to have a disclaimer to that effect when you use one of these polls. You should point out that the results are simply from those who have chosen to participate in the poll.

(And as a web site developer, you should never use the results of these polls to make decisions about the site itself.)

Still, a web poll such as this one is an easy, simple and inexpensive way to get readers involved in the site, and they can be fun to generate. They may even result in some interesting comments by the readers and some ideas for additional polls or even news coverage.

Jim Stovall (posted April 7, 2006)

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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