Polls in UX work

nowadays, I often see UX polls in social media when FOSS developers or designers seek an answer on particular topics - features to be implemented, wallpapers, icons, interaction decisions etc. Apparently, polls are quite popular in the FOSS world.
However, I hesitate a bit about their use. A UX professional I once knew shook his head over polls because in his opinion it’s the skilled designer’s job to decide over the questions above.
IMHO, polls have some advantages and disadvantages:

  • Polls are cheap, compared to other user research methods.
  • Polls return results quickly.
  • Users are engaged with the project and motivated to contribute, perhaps even later.


  • The respondents are not necessarily the intended users. In fact, they are savvy to use social media, which might not be valid for the intended users. Some social media are made from and for tech experts or academics.
  • These respondents might have different needs and goals, usage contexts and environments than the intended users. Their goals might not go with the product vision (if given). The respondents might not even be users of the software, have biases or decide just out of personal opinion (‘Oh, this looks nicer than that!’)
  • The poller does not even know about the above, because anyone can reply.
  • Polls do not even require a UX artifact like a sketch or prototype, and therefore respondents answer out of their imagination.

But well, I could be wrong, and I am seeking experience-based answers:

  • Are my thoughts valid?
  • What do the UX practitioners here think about polls and/or have experienced with them?
  • To which extent/under which conditions are polls a valid method for UX work?
  • Which tools have been proven better in the FOSS world?

Thank you in advance


It depends which community you need to make your decisions accountable to. As a UX professional I agree with your concerns. However, open source culture has very different ideas about users than UX professionals: The concern is often less if you used the right method to find out something about a user (“You are not the user”), but having consulted with the community of the project. Thus, the polls in projects might be also vibe checks and community building (which can be also seen in the common logo competitions/votings in FOSS projects – where logos are professionally to present a project to the outside, such logos are very strongly identification to the inside and thus are created in a different way.)

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…but given that they are used so frequently, there is probably more to it and I would be curious what others are thinking!