Polls and surveys – are they irritating or enlightening?

On WordPress.com we all have the option to add polls and surveys. Done well, they can give us valuable feedback. Done badly, they can be irritating, provide meaningless or misleading information, and can even change our visitors’ opinions for the worse. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example many of us will have seen on WordPress. Ever clicked on ‘Visit the old stats page’? The first thing you’ll see is a poll. A poorly worded one:

Why do you prefer this Stats page?

  • It’s faster
  • It shows more information
  • It’s less confusing
  • I’m used to it


I don’t prefer the old stats page. I click the old stats button once in a while because it’s temptingly placed at the bottom of my stats. I remember vaguely that there’s something extra on the old stats, but don’t recall what it might be.  Once there, I see this poll, which is where I got the idea that WordPress suspect their new stats are slower, show less information and/or are more confusing. I’m willing to give my views, but none of the answers are appropriate for me (my pet hate). The question isn’t even appropriate!

The poll may have been a quick response to some initial negative comments, or because they have genuine concerns about introducing changes. Bloggers are vocal by nature and change is unlikely to please everyone. Whatever the reason, the poll is not really selling me the idea that the new stats are a step in the right direction. I might even start to wonder why WordPress would knowingly make their stats worse.

My advice to WordPress as a marketeer
  1. Accept that the wording may give bloggers negative thoughts they might not otherwise have had, or reinforce existing concerns.
  2. If you’re using the information, the poll’s been up for several weeks. It’s time to check your results. If the pattern of responses is remaining fairly consistent, consider the poll’s work is done and remove it.
  3. I can’t think the results are very reassuring as you didn’t allow anyone to say anything positive about the change. Can you speed up the new stats if they are significantly slower? Can you add back any missing information, possibly as a ‘read more’ option? I’m puzzled why you wouldn’t do these things automatically.
  4. If you want to continue gathering feedback, re-write the poll as a survey. Change ‘Why do you prefer this Stats page?’ to ‘Do you prefer this Stats page?’ with the options ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘I like them both’, ‘Not sure’.
  5. Add a free comment box titled ‘If yes, please tell us why’. (I understand it takes more time to analyse results, but do you want a true reflection?)
  6. If there are compelling reasons to keep the existing poll format, add an extra, more neutral response, such as: ‘I check them because they’re still available’.
  7. You might like to briefly explain why you’re asking for feedback (just a suggestion).

I’m not pretending this is easy – there’s a real art to setting questions and possible answers. British people can cast their minds back to the lengthy debate to agree the question and responses presented to the Scottish electorate in the recent referendum.

Any time art is driving science, don’t expect a clear-cut relationship.

It’s great that WordPress want to gather opinions and their poll suggests that they will be responsive to feedback. I’m still new to the platform but have seen enough to be convinced that they are a caring, creative team. For a free service – and having worked with much more expensive content management systems – I think WordPress is amazing. I’m glad they try to improve things – I wrote this post today after noticing the poll was still there after further refinements to the layout of the stats page.

And for the rest of us? Just because we can quickly pop a survey up doesn’t mean we ought to without thinking things through. If our survey’s for fun and we make this clear, there’s unlikely to be any harm done, though we might be surprised by the responses. If we’re serious, especially when we represent a brand or are planning to act on the results, it’s a good idea to test it on a few people before posting.

I’d love to hear your views, not particularly on whether you like the old stats or the new stats page (it’s better to direct that kind of feedback to WordPress) but on polls and surveys in general. Do you have any pet survey hates? Have you found a poll you’ve run enlightening or surprising?

4 Replies to “Polls and surveys – are they irritating or enlightening?”

    1. I can understand that they’re not for everyone, but they can be fun, they give a way for people to interact and done well, they can be enlightening. I don’t believe the odd poll will scare people away if it’s done thoughtfully, but when they’re irritating, that’s a different story!

      1. I think that younger bloggers than I would find it a lot easier to use. My native language is Danish so making the right questions also would be a serious task

  1. I absolutely love Polldaddy surveys.
    I use them as extended contact forms that allow customers to upload information electronically so certain services can be delivered faster.
    I don’t actually use them to gather opinions. If I did, I might have felt differently!
    I agree with your analysis of the WordPress survey. I actually do prefer the old stats page (because I can view summaries – can’t do that on the new page) and none of the survey options are appropriate.

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