Tag Archives: Google Spreadsheets

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Create a survey or poll for your blog with Google Docs and Spreadsheets

You may have noticed the snazzy poll I posted on my blog the other day.  There’s a number of different survey and poll plugins for WordPress but all the ones I’ve looked at have caveats and limitations.  You can also use a service like SurveyMonkey but it has some data limitations for free accounts.  Instead, I used Google Docs and Spreadsheets to create a survey quickly and easily.  Here’s how to do it.

1. Getting to Google Docs and starting your form

We’re going to assume you have a Gmail account or have signed up for some other Google service already.  Go to http://docs.google.com.  Click on New -> Form

2.  Creating your form

This is actually pretty easy, and the online help does a pretty good job explaining what to do.  You have a number of options when creating a question – you can make it multiple choice, full text, or even a numerical scale, and you can mark some questions as required.  If you’re looking for the “Add question” button, it’s up at the top of the page rather than below the last question.

3.  Publishing the survey on your site

After you’ve created your form, use the More Actions button to find the Embed option.  Just copy this iframe into your blog post – it’s that simple. You’ll get code that looks something like this:

<iframe src=”http://spreadsheets.google.com/embeddedform?key=ppevxmL24UqnRb77Xy3AOWg” width=”310″ height=”1044″ frameborder=”0″ marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″>Loading…</iframe>

You can change the height and weight to better fit your blog template.  Keep in mind that some blogging software will not let you post HTML code and others, like WordPress, require you to use the HTML view.

If you can edit your template or sidebar you can even include the poll on every page, instead of just putting it in a post.

4.  Getting data

Here’s where it gets really cool – the data is automatically collected into a spreadsheet that you can share, edit online, or export to Microsoft Excel.  It’s pretty easy to export CSV for a statistical package like SPSS too.

There’s an optional fifth step, creating a chart or graph to let your users see the results, that I’ll cover later.  If you can’t wait just jump back to my post about urban usability and read about how I created the time-series chart there.

Please take a quick survey – Related posts and social bookmarks

A little while ago I added the Sphere Related Content plugin to my blog, and I’ve been using the ShareThis plugin for social bookmarking links for a while now.  The former should theoretically benefit users who want to read more about a topic I’ve written about, while the latter should make it easy to share my articles with others.

WordPress makes it easy to add plugins but I wonder if these are actually useful my readers.  Please take a moment to fill out this survey and let me know.

I used a Google Docs and Spreadsheets form to make the poll.  Later I’ll post about how you can do the same on your blog as well.

Urban Usability – How walkable is your city?

Cleveland skyline from the Superior Viaduct I have a little project called Localographer, which you can use to create heat maps and find a house or apartment near your workplace, friends and relatives, or other place you’d like to be.  When I showed it to my brother he tried mapping out places in Boston and ran into a limitation – the interface doesn’t show you various transit options and it doesn’t make it easy to figure out the real cost and benefits of living in different places.

If you move to the suburbs, you might be able to commute by car but living by a train stop can be cheaper and easier.  In some neighborhoods you can get 10 different kinds of food in a 10 minute walk, in others you need to get in your car and drive a quarter mile to get anything to eat at all.

Adding features like this to Localographer means solving two problems – data and user interface.  I don’t have access to restaurant locations, transit stops, etc. and that sort of data can be expensive to get from commercial sources.  I could go the wiki route but that would require building an interface for users to contribute data and finding ways to make the data more reliable.

So in the mean time, if you want to get an idea of how walkable a potential neighborhood might be, take a look at Walk Score.  It’s a very cool site which has some of the features I’ve been meaning to add to Localographer – you can get a score for how livable the area around any address might be.

For example, my current neighborhood in California has a score of 74 out of 100.   Our house in Shaker Heights scores 62 out of 100.  Because any excuse is a good excuse to use a spreadsheet and a graph, I’ve plotted out the walkability of all the places I’ve lived using a Google Docs spreadsheet and the Interactive Time Series Gadget.  I wrote earlier about how you can embed any Google Doc or Spreadsheet into a blog post but Gadgets are even easier – just click the “Publish” button on the gadget and paste the Javascript code in the raw HTML view of your blogging software.

There are some issues with Walk Score, of course – for example Naples, Florida scores very high, but when I lived there I really missed having access to a car.  Most of the restaurants and shops along 5th Street and Tamiami Trail were out of my internship-funded price range.  I used to bike some distance to get to The Clock, a cheap diner.

All of this discussion is pointing toward a much larger question that I have been thinking about for a long time – I know how to study the usability of web sites and other software, but I wonder if anyone does usability studies of urban planning?  I’ve seen traffic flow studies and I know building codes have some basis in ergonomics and accessibility, but does anyone do observational studies of how people interact with different urban environments to figure out what works and what doesn’t?  Is there a Fitt’s Law of where to locate grocery stores compared to condos?