Tag Archives: plugins

CSV Excel firefox Google Google Docs Google Spreadsheets how-to IDE php poll source control Sphere SPSS survey SurveyMonkey tools web-development WordPress

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.

How do you set up a PHP development environment?

DSCN1377-1Are you a budding web developer wondering where to start?  An old hand looking for new tools?  Let me tell you a little bit about how I do my PHP / web development work, and maybe some it will be of use to you.

I am starting up some work on Mealographer again.  It definitely needs it, I did a usability test about a year ago and still haven’t fixed the issues I uncovered.  I haven’t been doing a lot of work in PHP recently, at my day job is all Java all the time.  I used to be happy with a text editor, a server somewhere and a browser, but since I’ve been using Eclipse I’ve become spoiled by better tools.

So what do you need to get started?  If you just want to play around, all you need is:

A text editor.  You can use Notepad, but I’ve used HTMLKit in the past.  It’s free and it does basic stuff like syntax highlighting nicely.

A server.  You can set everything up on a remote server, many have PHP accounts for as low as $5/month.  Right now I use Site5 [referral link].  I also want to give a shout out to Q5Media, though PHP isn’t their main thing.

A browser.  This is pretty basic, but worth mentioning.  You need Firefox, which is free to download.  You’ll also want to test things in IE, which you probably already had.

You can do real work with just the above.  It’s worth taking advantage of all the great tools out there, though, including:

An integrated development environment (IDE) – I’m pretty happy with Eclipse for Java development (or the related IBM RAD 6).  What about for PHP?  Right now I’m trying to decide between PHPEclispe and the PDT plugin.  Anyone have an opinion on which way to go?

A local development server – If you want to run PHP locally on windows, you can install Apache or get PHP working on IIS.  In my experience, though, you can’t beat WAMPSERVER – it includes Apache, MySQL and PHP and makes configuration pretty easy.

Source control – There’s no way to keep track of a project of any real size without a change management system.  I have used CVS a lot, and SmartCVS is a good free client.  There are also CVS plugins for Eclipse.  I have heard a lot of good things about Subversion as well.

Web developer plugins for Firefox – seriously, if you don’t have these, you might as well tie your hand behind your back when writing JavaScript of CSS.  Here’s a good list of Firefox plugins.

So that’s what I use – what am I missing?  Post suggestions in the comments below.