Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Setting up a survey on your site is extremely simple and many times just as beneficial, for two main reasons. One, they let you create a more interactive website for your visitor. Choose interesting topics, poll opinions on recent events related to your site, and people will participate to find out what other people on your site think. Second, if you write your surveys in a way that keeps them interesting and useful to yourself you can gather important information about your visitors in order to build a site better tailored to their interests.
STEP 1: Set Up The Software
You'll need to either sign up for a remotely hosted poll service or to install a CGI script on your own in order to manage your polls.
While a remotely hosted poll is not as customizable as one you host on your own, it's definitely easier to set up. One of the more popular of the many free remotely hosted poll services out there is PollIt. You can have your poll up and running fast after registering and filling out a couple forms: (http://www.pollit.com/webpolls)
The other option is to find or write a CGI script to run the poll on your site. This gives you the ability to customize the poll to look exactly as you want it and to fit in with your site. It also eliminates the links back to the poll host that many remotely hosted ones have. You can find a good one here: (http://www.cgi-world.com/pollit.html)
STEP 2: Write Your Question
The goal of your poll is to create a more interactive website for your visitors and to collect information for yourself. Choose topics where responses would interest both the visitor to your site and yourself. Ask a question about the topics your site covers to find out what your visitors want more information about.
You may even ask questions directly related to your website. Ask "what do you want to read more of" and list several topics your site covers or may cover in the future. Ask "how often do you read our daily gardening tips" and find out exactly how popular they are.. or aren't.
STEP 3: Post Your Poll
Placement is key! You won't get a heaping response to your poll unless it's very well written. Place the poll towards the top of the page where it will be visible when the page loads. While some of the remotely hosted services offer polls that pop up when the page loads, these will generally get less response than one integrated into your site well.
With CGI-based polls, you can usually use SSI or Server-Side-Includes to include your poll right in your webpage without doing much editing. Do a search at any major search engine for more information on this.
STEP 4: Use Your Results
Once you've acquired enough votes to get an idea of what your visitors are voting overall, use this information to improve your site. Build your site based on what your visitors really want to see. If they tell you they want to learn about topics over other topics, focus more on the ones they're interested in.
Hopefully this will lead to a more successful site for you in the long run. Your users will benefit from a more interactive site and a responsive website owner who tailors the site to their wants and needs.
About The Author
Dan Grossman runs (http://www.websitegoodies.com) where you can find over 250 hand-picked resources, articles, and tools! Dan also publishes the free weekly "WebDevPortal" newsletter for website owners! Subscribe today and get articles like this every week: email@example.com?subject=article-subscribe