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PHP 101 (part 14): Going to the Polls
Create an online voting system with PHP and MySQL

| Burning Questions |

The first application is fairly simple. It's a polling system for a web site, one which allows you to quickly measure what your visitors think about controversial issues (Kerry versus Bush, to-mah-to versus to-mae-to, that kind of thing). This online polling mechanism is fairly popular, because it lets you find out what your visitors are thinking, and makes your web site more dynamic and interactive.

I'm sure you've seen such a system in action on many web portals, and have a fairly clear mind's-eye picture of how it works. Nevertheless, it's good practice to write down exactly what the end product is supposed to do before you begin writing even a single line of code (geeks call this defining requirements).

1. There needs to be a mechanism by which the user can view a question, and then select from a list of possible answers. This "vote" then needs to be captured by the system, and added to the existing tally of votes for that question.

2. There needs to be a way for the site administrator to add new questions, or delete old ones. A MySQL database is a good place to store these questions and answers, but the administrator may not necessarily be proficient enough in SQL to change this data manually. Therefore, a form-based interface should be provided, to make the task simple and error-free.

3. Obviously, there also needs to be a way to view reports of the votes submitted for each question and its answers. The report would contain a count of the total votes registered for a question, as well as a breakdown of the votes each answer received.

An important question here is: Does it make sense to fix the number of available choices for each question? In my opinion, it doesn't, because the number of available choices is likely to change with each question. It's better to leave this number variable, and to allow the poll administrator to add as many choices per question as appropriate. We can, however, define an upper limit on the number of possible choices for each question - for argument's sake let's say five.

With this basic outline in mind, the next step is to design a database that supports these requirements.

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