A few weeks ago, Jonathan Boutelle stopped by the office to show me The Mind Canvas which Uzanto launched last fall. They have developed a set of survey applications using game-like interaction to collect information.

Unsurprisingly people like this stuff. I love this quote from someone who took one of their surveys:
“Filling out this survey was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It was a brilliant application of computer technology. Ask me again sometime….PLEEEEEEEEEASE.”
(from What about the data: Do game-like methods get good user data? )

I’m glad to see “divide the dollar” which in an online version of one of my favorite tools for getting people to rank feature priorities. Instead of merely picking your top 5 or ranking features, you can decide what amount of money you want to spend on which feature. We used to use this methodology for every release of Macromedia Director (perhaps they still do). We had a fixed amount of engineering time to devote to new feature development, and we could do a rough guess of how expensive features were (ranked by $, $$, and $$$). We used paper to gather input from the development team, product management and marketing, and small focus groups. I would have loved to gather input from the loyal following on direct-l or a large group of prospective new developers using using this kind of online survey.

In addition to providing a nice graphic experience for standard survey questions, Uzanto has created innovative online interactions for collecting information about higher level concepts. Of particular interest are their methods of collecting data about how people categorize information which can be helpful for determining appropriate information architecture for a web site or testing existing categories. My favorite is how they’ve implemented an “open sort” technique using drag and drop and free-form naming to get people to provide their own categories and names for them (pictured below).

The best part of The Mind Canvas happens behind the scenese. They have wonderful interactive visualizations of the data that is collected.

For now, it is available as a service and you can get in touch with them to set up a study.