Visualizing Survey Results with Wordle

Statistical surveys are used to collect quantitative information about items in a population. Surveys of human populations and institutions are common in political polling and government, health, social science and marketing research – from Wikipedia


We have all filled out surveys. We score our customer service, job satisfaction, political beliefs and more. Surveys are an excellent tool for collecting quantitative data from a large set of people. As more people respond, we can use statistical analysis to predict the entire population’s response with increasing precision. This capability leads survey designers to prefer numeric scores. The canonical example is the 1 to 5, Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree.



These constrained answers make it easy to compare scores and aggregate data, but for complex issues with interdependencies, these questions are irrelevant. Can anyone have a 3.8 agreement factor about their child’s education? Are you sure your customers have a 4.4 out of 5 positive feeling about your brand? Some survey designers try to include several factors to allow for more nuanced rankings. How can we encourage users to give us the answers to the issues burning deep in their souls while not creating a list of essays for reviewers to read, rank, and aggregate? Is there a good way to quantify qualitative data?

On a recent client engagement, we were analyzing a survey including broad, open-ended questions with no restriction on answers. How do you quantify “What is the best part of your job?” Enter Wordle. This site allows you to enter any test you like, and it will provide the word count, remove common terms (at, of, the, and), and provide a visualization of the relevant terms? When I was working with another developer on it, we found the flow from the question to the most common answers impossible to resist. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the leading answers. Our clients agreed and found the output easy to understand.



Wordle runs as a Java applet on your local machine. This means that your anonymous, personal survey results are processed on your local machine and no information is sent back to a central server for storage. The word counts are also available if someone wants to have the specific number of times a topic or word was mentioned.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Wordle, I just used it and found it was a perfect fit for our needs.

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