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How To Design Squidoo Polls, The Right Way

Updated on January 27, 2013

10 Tips To Help You Design Great Polls

The MacMillan Dictionary defines an opinion poll as "an attempt to find out what people in general think about a subject by asking some people questions about it".

The Squidoo poll module is often used to obtain opinions or views on a topic.

There are many reasons why lensmasters include a poll module in their lenses - to encourage participation in the lens, to learn something from visitors, to obtain material to use in another lens, to entertain visitors (such as by providing a quiz) or just because they are curious by nature.

Whatever your motivation for using a poll module, there is a right way and a wrong way to design it. Either way, you will get answers (unless the question is completely incomprehensible). But, what the answers mean may be in the eye of the beholder.

These 10 tips are things I learnt over many years designing questionnaires as a market researcher. I hope they help you to design some awesome polls!

Tip 1: Decide Why You Are Conducting The Poll

And Be Open About Your Motives

There are many reasons for conducting a poll - to encourage participation in your lens, to promote a product, to extend the length of time visitors spend on your lens, to provide entertainment, or even, to learn something from participants.

All of these reasons are valid. You just need to be open about them. Why? Because subtle selling under the guise of a poll discourages participation.

Ultimately, though, the most important reason for being clear about why you are conducting the poll is that it will help you design an appropriate question and alternative answers.

Tip 2: It's About Them, Not You

Look at the poll from a visitor's point of view, not yours

There is nothing more frustrating than thinking about your answer to a survey question and then discovering that your best answer has not been provided for.

"Which of the following is your favorite travel destination - San Francisco, Hawaii, Paris, New York, Miami?"

Well, actually, it is Rio. Where do I put that?

But you can't cater for every place in the world, right?

So, give people an "other (please specify)" option. Ask them to check the box next to this option (so you can count them and ensure your respondents are all counted) and then fill in their answer in the comments box below.

Make sure you have activated the comments box and voila! Everyone can answer!

Tip 3: Make It Fun And Interesting

The Most Valid Polls Are Those That Encourage The Widest Participation

"Which of these kids has the best smile?"

"The tin grin is in! Do you agree?"

There are many creative ways to come up with an original question for a poll. Position ideas or things as alternatives when they aren't really, and ask people to choose.

"Do you prefer a calm, controlled person or energetic extrovert?"

Those are alternatives??

No, but people will enjoy seeing the results.

Make a statement about a human truth and ask people whether they agree.

"The best things in life are free. Do you agree?"

"If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done?"

Tip 4: Turn Topical, Relevant Issues Into Questions

Using A Likert Scale

The most widely used answer format in public opinion polling is called the Likert (pronounced "Like - Err - t") scale.

It is great because:

1) It enables you to turn any statement into a question

2) It has been widely validated, so your results will be scientifically valid

3) It is bi-polar (no, not bipolar disorder! It includes both positive and negative options, so anyone can answer!)

The Likert scale is an agree-disagree scale used like this:

Question: To what extent do you agree or disagree that Webinaut is awesome?"

Strongly agree

Partly agree

Neither agree not disagree

Partly disagree

Strongly disagree

The Unbelievably Beautiful Zen Garden At Ryoan-ji In Kyoto, Japan
The Unbelievably Beautiful Zen Garden At Ryoan-ji In Kyoto, Japan

Tip 5: K.I.S.S.

Keep It Short And Simple

Of all the places on earth that I have visited, one made a greater impression on me than any other.

Ryoan-ji is the most famous Zen temple in the world and it is in Kyoto, Japan. It has the most beautiful gardens - their beauty is in their simplicity.

Polls are like Zen temples. The simpler and shorter, the better. They are more understandable and less of a mission to complete.

Tip within a tip: To design a great poll, design it, then go back and try to K.I.S.S. it - substitute simpler words and shorten the phrases.

Image Credit

Tip 6: Don't Be Biased

If I said that "more than 40% of all people live in a house", does that sound like a lot of people?

What if I said that "less than half of all people live in a house"?

And if I said "47% of all people live in a house"?

All three statements may be true, but people interpret them differently.

The same is true of questions. If you want a meaningful answer, don't bias the question by using a value-based phrase.

The video demonstrates this. And its very funny.


How To Bias A Poll - The British Way

Tip 7: Keep Your Question "Singular"

That Way It Will Be Unambiguous

Q: "Would you say that New York trains are clean and on-time?" Yes/No?

A: "No"

Does this mean they are both dirty and late, clean but late, or dirty but on-time?

The question is actually two questions:

1) The clean part

2) The on-time part

If you take a short cut and combine them you will end up with answers that are neat, but meaningless.

Tip 8: Use A Nominal Or Ordinal Scale In Your Answer Choices

What does this mean?

"Nominal" means "name", "ordinal" means "order".

Essentially, the answer option available to you in a Squidoo poll module involves choosing one answer out of a list. As a result, nominal and ordinal answers are the two types of answer you can offer respondents.

Nominal answers are those that can be presented in any order without affecting the results:

"Which of these colors is your favorite - red, yellow, green or blue?"

As you can see, the names of colors are simply names.

Ordinal answers rely on the order in which you present them:

"How often do you go to the movies - Very often, often, not very often, seldom, never?"

In the second example, you could argue that "not very often" is less frequent than "seldom". The truth is that, if you present them in the order shown, people will interpret them as declining in that order.

Tip 9: Use A Semantic Differential Question

A What?

A semantic differential is a scale between two words. Typically it is presented horizontally, like in the picture.

However, it can be presented in a Squidoo Poll Module. Just start with the positive word and finish with the negative.

The semantic differential question is good for measuring grades of feeling between two extremes.

Here is an example:

(Tip: If you use a "0" the module omits it from the choices. Use an uppercase "O" instead).

How different would you say this product is? Please indicate on the scale.

See results

Tip 10: Include An Open-Ended Question

What's that?

It's a question without any pre-specified answers at all. In Squidoo terms, this is not a poll, it's a guestbook comment question. But, it is a very common poll question in the survey industry.

Respondents can answer anything they want. Use the guestbook comments module instead of a poll module. You just need to frame it as a survey question. I normally also tell respondents that they can give give more than one answer if they wish.

Open-ended questions are great because, not only do you get the answer, you get the type of language people use as well.

But, how do you count the answers?

Great question. People often give you more than one answer in the comments box. You will need to paste each different answer into a spreadsheet column. Then, in another column, allocate number codes to each similar answer. 1 = anything about color, 2 = anything about size, and so on. Then, just sort the answers by the number codes, and you will know the % of answers relating to color, size, etc.

Another use of an open-ended question is to clarify answers to a poll question. Invite people to do so in the question itself, such as:

Q: Which do you prefer and why? Please vote and tell us why in the comments box.

Highly Rated Books About Poll Design

Lens Content Rating - Please give me your opinion.

How useful are the tips in this lens to you personally?

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