My Opinio About Charts

May 22nd, 2009 by Steph.

Yesterday, I stuck with most of the defaults in my test of Opinio polls, and I had some success. I did run into a few problems, which I will describe below. I’m not sure how savvy my readers are (are you out there?), but I’m always left wondering how software designers come up with some of their management interfaces. I’m used to digging through new software and figuring things out — and even I get lost. (This isn’t a stab at Opinio – I find this with just about EVERY piece of software I use. Baffling, baffling UI sometimes.)

Onto my follow-up with polls…

Changing the Chart

This one stumped me for a while, and the help really didn’t help me here. Some background: the poll results can be set to display in chart format. The default is a horizontal bar chart, but you can also pick from a vertical bar chart and a pie chart. My problem was that the default settings were not sufficient — one of my questions got sort of cut off in the results (couldn’t see the whole answer text, and couldn’t see ANY results). I thought maybe a different chart would help (which it did – I’ll get into that later).

I was in the "Set Poll Behaviour" screen, where you set the Result type to be "Chart" or "Thank you note". I also wanted to see the options for the chart, but didn’t see them on this screen. I clicked the cute little green question mark bubble. Here, I find reference to "Quick Chart Edit" – sounds promising! Click on that link, which shows me what I’m looking for… but… wait… how do I get there? I look in the menu, no reference to "Quick Chart Edit". No description in the help page for how to find this elusive tool. Commence hair pulling.

After a little back & forth, I decided to move on… and magically found the option. See, you need to be in the "Customize Look & Feel", or simply "Look & Feel" menu group in order to see the "Quick poll chart edit" option. Yikes. Seriously?

Quick Recap: Customize look and feel > Quick poll chart edit will allow you to make some simple, but useful changes to your results chart.

Chart Layout (or, how to actually see all of your stuff)

OK, so now that I’ve found it… why did I need it in the first place? Ah, yes… because things weren’t displaying properly. At first I thought it had something to do with the system I posted it on (which happened to be this blog, in what is currently Roller blog software). I soon realized that the same behaviour was happening in the preview right in Opinio.

In my example, I have two questions. The first is a multiple choice with three possible answers, one of which is rather long ("I have an account, but rarely/never use it."). Both questions appear on the first screen (don’t love the layout or spacing of the questions, but at least it works). Select your answers, and click ‘Vote’. The results, by default, appear in a "Horizontal Bar Chart". My second question results display as expected — but not the first. To start, the text for answer option 3 (the long one) gets cut off. Even worse, no results appear for this question. Frustrating!! Let’s start with the bigger problem…

a) Getting all results to display – widen both the table & the chart

I actually started by changing the chart type – first to vertical bar, then to pie. The vertical bar was the only one that showed the results to both questions without any further editing. The pie chart seemed to suffer from the same affliction as the horizontal bar chart. I realized that the wee box displaying the poll was simply not wide enough to accommodate my results.

click Customize Look & Feel to widen the poll table

Here, you can pick other box styles (and Advanced will allow you to play with the CSS… I’ll definitely be exploring this soon!). You can also change the  "Form Width", which is what I did. You may have to play with this a little to get the right width for your poll & the page you are delivering it on.

From inside the Customize Look & Feel menu, click Quick poll chart edit to widen the poll results chart itself

Here is where you can choose from the various chart options – I’d do this before playing with the width of the chart – and set the "Chart Width".

Click ‘Preview poll’ in the left-hand menu bar at any time to view your poll.

Where Do I Use this?

After you go through all of the steps in preparing your poll, click "Publish Poll" to get the couple of lines of code needed to add the poll to a web page. We’re still testing the deployment out in different systems, but have had success in adding them to Serena Collage sites and Roller blogs. A quick test of our test WordPress site did not give us good results, but there are a few factors which we can control that we’ll play with to see if we can get it working. We’ve also had some trouble adding polls to Blackboard courses. Basically, any system that relies heavily on Javascript may not allow you to add things like these polls. Some sites prevent users from posting Javascript for security reasons. These are all things that you need to take into account when deciding to use these tools.

OK, so that was a pretty dry post for today. Sorry, but I thought I’d post something useful for once. I hope to bring the song & dance back soon!

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