Survey widgets: great tools for starting conversations

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You’ve heard about widgets: mini-applications that can be embedded on sites, blogs, social network profile pages and just about anywhere else on the Web. Survey widgets, those that poll users on one or more questions and send you the results, can be a great way to start a conversation with people who may be interested in your brand. Best of all, you can spread the conversation beyond the usual borders by planting the same survey on all your online social outposts. It’s a great way to generate buzz.

I know, right now you’re saying, yikes. I’m not even sure if I’m ready to join Twitter or start a blog. I’m definitely not ready to start developing widgets.

Sure you are! It’s easy. Here’s a quick guide to some of the best and best-known providers of survey widgets out there. All four of these options allow you to create a widget in less than 10 minutes for free. Think ahead of time about all the places you’ll want to post your widget. Compatibility issues can guide your choice of which tools to use.

1. PollDaddy

PollDaddy’s interface looks a lot like that of Google’s Blogger blog software platform. Grab boxes representing headers, URLs, multiple-choice questions, and questions enabling free-text answers, drop them onto a blank canvas, and away you go. A free account limits you to 1,000 responses per month. However, you can view your survey results within PollDaddy’s site, rather than having to receive them by e-mail. The drawback is, these polls can only be planted on a site using JavaScript. So if you want to use your survey on Facebook or a number of other networks, you’ll have to send potential users a URL for the location of the survey on PollDaddy’s site. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can expect slightly lower participation levels if people need to click through to an external site rather than being able to take the survey on the page where they first learned about it.

2. SurveyGizmo

SurveyGizmo is very similar to PollDaddy in that it must be delivered via Javascript or a link to SurveyGizmo’s site (if you pay for a premium account you can have the survey on a dedicated URL with your name on it). It’s not quite as customizable with its design as PollDaddy, but has some nice, easy-to-use options for adding logos and playing with fonts and colors. The interface for viewing your survey results is very cool; you can create all manner of nifty looking charts and graphs.

3. GlowDay

I find the GlowDay widget creation interface a bit clunky to use and the design templates a bit dated-looking. However, the advantage is that the QuickPost function makes it easy to display the widget on Facebook, MySpace and most blogging platforms with one click. For that reason, it may be your best option if you’re concerned that your community won’t want to click through a link to participate. It’s also the only option discussed here capable of displaying your survey in Flash if needed.

4. SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey offers features similar to those described above, but since you’re limited to 100 responses on free accounts, there’s no big incentive to use this over the others. Hopefully you’re going to get more than 100 responses, think big!

5. Online Survey – Customizable Online Polling


What a great example of the democratization of application development for the social Web: one of the best survey widgets out there comes from an Austrian barcode software firm that created it as a hobby. “We started with a barcode generator widget,” says Guenther Kriegl, the CEO of Tec-IT. “The online survey widget was implemented just for fun.”

If you need an easy-to-use, single-question survey widget with multiple-choice answers that can be created in just a minute, it’s a great option. It’s embeddable as JavaScript or can be plugged directly into Blogger blogs as a sidebar item or an individual post. It’s also compatible with WordPress and Typepad, and Guenther says it will be made compatible with Facebook as of this week. It won’t allow you to upload a logo but has font and color choices that make it easy to customize the look a bit. Your e-mail address must be approved by TEC-IT before it begins sending you survey results via e-mail.

If you’re not familiar with Widgetbox, it offers tens of thousands of widgets developed by an open community. Another popular, customizable widget on offer there enables you to stream content to a page via RSS (not unlike the SpringWidgets solution I discussed a couple of weeks ago here).

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