A look at how we created our pick-your-congressman quiz. Have you taken it yet?

Our new political reporter, Ed Mahon, took the idea of a pick-your-candidate quiz to Brad Jennings, assistant managing editor for visuals. Here’s Brad on how it developed:

With so many candidates vying for Todd Platts’ congressional seat — 10 in all — it was easy to get confused about each candidates’ views, or what stances separate them.

We wanted to create a way for voters to easily see which candidates best align with their own views of the top issues. So we formed this “Congressional Candidate Suggestor” quiz:

As we formed the idea, political reporter Ed Mahon put forth this USA Today presidential candidate quiz as an example. He began reporting to get each candidate’s views on several different issues.

But we quickly realized that our newsroom had neither the tools nor the mathematical/programming smarts to pull off something like this ourselves.

With several “make your own quiz” websites out there, I sought one that could deliver such a complex quiz, but it was difficult to find one.

We needed a quiz that would score “points” for multiple candidates per answer chosen, and we also needed it to allow candidates to score “points” on multiple answers per question. In some cases, we needed candidates to receive a varying amount of points per answer chosen.

Luckily, we foundĀ www.gotoquiz.com. This site allowed us to do everything we needed, while also offering statistics on traffic and referral sites. (The site did not allow for an embeddable widget, so we had to use an interstitial page from our website.)

In creating the quiz, for each potential answer a user would choose, we could assign each candidate a number of points. For example, one question asked about a candidate’s experience. If a user said they wanted a candidate with experience holding public office, both Chris Reilly and Scott Perry were awarded points. But if the user said they wanted a candidate with private sector experience as a lawyer/attorney, Ken Lee and Sean Summers received points.

In the end, a user is shown which candidate most closely aligns with the answers he or she chose, along with that candidate’s photo and a quick bio of that candidate. Then, a list reveals how the rest of he candidates stacked up.

From feedback we’ve gotten so far, some users found the quiz returned the candidate they expected it would. In other cases, users were surprised to learn they shared views with a certain candidate they had not considered before. Best of all, we heard from some who said the surprise candidate revealed to them forced them to seek out more information about the candidates.

The quiz was taken more than 500 times in its first four days of publication.

About Scott Blanchard

Enterprise editor at the York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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