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TechSoup Battles: Joyce Reviews Google Forms

SurveysCloud Tools

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There are a lot of free survey tools out there, but Google Forms takes the cake. It’s free, easy to use, integrates with Google apps, supports unlimited amounts of surveys, survey pages, questions and virtually unlimited form submissions. Survey themes for Google Forms are somewhat lacking but still plentiful, and it’s easy to share the survey to participants.

Why Google Forms?

Google Forms is very user friendly and integrates well with other Google applications (such as Google spreadsheet and Gmail). This was personally a huge benefit for me as TechSoup Canada uses Google Apps for day-to-day tasks. It was easy for me to switch between sending my survey and checking my results as they’re all accessible in one place (i.e., Google Drive). On top of viewing the results in real time, you can also post the your survey responses live on any web page by embedding the results as a graph.

However the most appealing aspect of Google Forms is the unlimited amount of surveys, survey pages and questions you can create and virtually unlimited responses it can store - all for free. To put this into perspective, majority of the free survey tools I’ve seen have a limit of 3 surveys, 10 questions (per survey) and 100-500 responses (per survey).

Now I do want to address the number of form responses Google Form can support. I keep referring to this amount as “virtually unlimited” because it depends on where you store your responses. In Google Form, you can store your responses in a Google Spreadsheet, or leave the responses in the survey itself:

  • If you choose to keep responses in a Google Spreadsheet, responses are limited to 400,000 cells with a maximum of 256 columns (each survey field and question would be a column). If your survey has 256 questions, you can store up to 1,562 responses. However if your survey has 10 questions, you can store up to 40,000 responses.
  • If you choose to leave responses in the survey, you can store unlimited number of responses, which can be viewed in the summary report or exported as a CSV file.

What else does Google Form have to offer?

Here’s a quick breakdown of Google Forms’ survey capabilities and features:

    • 9 question types. Short answer, long answer, multiple choice, checkboxes, dropdown, scale/rating, grid, date and time

    • 5 question features. Set required question, data validation, custom error text, randomize question and option order, skip to page logic

    • 5 layout options. Survey progress bar, section header, page break, insert image and insert video.

    • 4 confirmation page options. Customize sentence for confirmation page, allow participants to edit responses after submission, publish and show link to the results of the survey, and allow participants to submit another response

    • 2 form response destinations. You can keep form submissions in the survey itself to store unlimited responses, or you can direct submissions to a Google spreadsheet and store responses up to 400,000 cells

    • Multiple administrators. You can add other people to your survey as “collaborators”, which allows them to edit your survey

    • Survey templates. You can’t customize survey templates, but there 19 templates to choose from (as of this time of writing)

    • Simple survey report. Like survey templates, you can’t customize the report but it does summarize all of the survey responses into a nice and simple report

  • Easy sharing. You can embed surveys to your website, email them directly (through Gmail, Outlook or any other email client), share it on social media networks or copy and paste the link to participants

Creating a Survey in Google Forms

To create a survey, head over to Google Drive, click on “Create” and choose “Form”.

Next, choose a survey name and template. Templates can’t be customized, but there are a couple of workarounds if you’re curious.

Add survey questions/page elements by using the “add item” button:

And define where you want your survey responses to be saved (in this case, I wanted it in a spreadsheet for easier viewing):

Sending Your Survey

After you’re done creating your survey, you can share it with others by clicking on the blue “Send Form” button on the upper right-hand corner:

You can choose whether you want to embed the survey, share the survey link, share it on social media or send it directly via email:

Viewing and Downloading Survey Responses

If you choose to redirect your responses to a Google Spreadsheet, you can view them by going to Responses > View Responses. The spreadsheet is updated in real time as responses come in, and adjusts dynamically if you decide to change the questions. Google Form will also save survey responses if you remove a question from the survey, and will automatically import all the survey responses if you create a new Google Spreadsheet.

If you leave your survey responses in the Google Form, you can view them by going to Responses > Summary of Responses.

You can also download survey responses as a CSV file:

Overall Impression

For a free survey tool, Google Form is one of the best options available. It may not have a lot of advanced question types and logic (e.g., question piping) but it still comes with a few advanced options (e.g., branch logic) that can cover majority of your survey needs. Google Forms also has a lot of features that are usually not available on a free plan (e.g., branching, multiple survey pages, exporting data) and I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate the “no limits” on questions, pages, surveys and responses.

My only qualm with Google Forms is the inability to customize my survey’s look and feel. Even though I’ve found a couple of ways to work around this <link to anchor>, the methods aren’t ideal and don’t always work (for example, the HTML + CSS method doesn’t work for surveys with multiple pages).

What are your thoughts on Google Forms? Share your thoughts on Twitter (#janevstierney), Facebook or in the comment section below!

A Word on Google Form Templates

I’ll be the first to admit that Google’s Form templates are lacking. Users aren’t able to customize header and background images and there are only a handful of templates that are professional.

I found it hard to believe that there was nothing I could do to customize my survey, so I did some research. Fortunately, there are two workarounds that would allow for some customization:

  • No-hassle Method

    If you’re not very familiar with coding, you can always add your organization’s logo to the form to make it more official. You can do this by using Google Form’s “add image” option.

    Here’s an example of my Cake vs Pie survey using this method:
  • Code it!

    If you have working knowledge of HTML5 and CSS, you can copy and paste your Google form into a blank HTML page on your website, or paste it into a brand new HTML file and style it from here. This method doesn’t work for surveys with multiple pages, but it’s still a decent method if you’re very keen on styling your one-page form. Form submissions will still be captured, even if the form itself is no longer hosted on Google.

    Here’s an example of the same Cake vs Pie survey styled externally:

Interested in giving this method a try? Immersion Media has a great step-by-step post on how to style Google Forms.