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How to Make a Survey With Google Docs Forms

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There’s so many ways to create online forms, it can be overwhelming to pick the perfect one for your needs. Arguably the most powerful is one you already have access to for free—it's available inside of Google Drive. 

Drive is an integral part of every Google account, and is best known as a cloud storage service and for its Google office suite. One of its lesser known features is Google Forms, a form building tool that is as simple or as complex as you need it to be. Whether you’re collecting email addresses, running snap polls on your website, or are building in-depth customer service surveys or questionnaires, Forms is the ideal tool to use.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to get started with Google Forms. We'll cover the example of how to make a Google Form survey. I'll explain the different types of questions you can create with it, how you can make the questions vary depending on the responses the user provides, and finally how you can access and analyse the data you receive. I'll also provide a short screencast on how to use a survey template. Let’s get started.

How to Make a Survey Quickly With Google Forms (Video)

Study this screencast to learn how to customize a Google Forms survey template quickly, so you can start making and sending out your own surveys with Google Docs:

 

Or, explore the detailed step-by-step process below for how to make a new survey from scratch using Google Doc Forms.

1. Getting Started With Google Forms

Let's start with making our Google Doc survey. First, in your web browser, go to drive.google.com and login to your Google account if you haven't already done so. In the top left corner of the screen click New > More > Google Forms.

Google Forms option on drop-down menu
Locate the Google Forms option from the drop-down menu.

Step 1. How to Create Your First Google Forms Survey

Click the arrow to the right of the Google Forms option to choose between opening a blank form or creating a form from a template.

Google Forms options
Choose between creating a survey from a blank form or from a template.

Click Blank form to create a survey from a blank form. Or, click From a template to create a survey from a template. If you find a template you like, then click on it to open the template.

Google Forms Template Gallery
There are some pre-designed templates that you can use.

However, the default theme is suitably neutral if you're planning to embed your survey into your website. To access it, either select the Blank option from the Template gallery or select the Blank form option from the drop-down menu.

Step 2. How to Define Google Forms Settings

You're now at the main Forms page. You'll see two tabs at the top of the form. One tab is titled Questions, the other is titled Responses.

Blank Google Docs Form with two tabs
Questions and Responses tabs on a blank survey.

You'll set up formatting independently for Questions and Responses by clicking on each tab.

Once you've selected a tab, access formatting options by clicking the More icon (it looks like three vertical dots) in the upper right corner of the screen. From the drop-down menu, select the Settings icon.

Google Forms Settings icon
Use the Settings option to define settings for your survey.

The Settings dialog box appears.

Google Forms Survey Settings Dialog Box
Use the Settings dialog box to define your Google Forms Survey settings.

The Settings window has three tabs:

  1. General
  2. Presentation
  3. Quizzes

For the purposes of this example, I'll show you how to change response settings. Click the center tab, Presentation, to display the options there.

If your form is going to be two or more pages long, then tick the box labelled Show progress bar... to show the respondent how long it will take them to fill out the survey.

You can define other survey settings according to your needs by using the Settings screen for either the Questions or Responses tab.

To continue with this example, let's return to the Questions tab.

Step 3. How to Name the Google Forms Survey

The Google Forms survey is split into sections, but obviously to begin you'll only have one section. The title of the form and its description are at the top—click on either to type your own text over them.

Name your Google Survey
Click on the Untitled form text to type over it.

Your text replaces the default text. Now you are ready to add your first question.

Step 4. How to Add Your First Google Survey Question

Click Untitled Question to add your question. Click the More icon (it looks like three vertical dots) in the lower right corner and add a Description if the question needs explaining.

The down arrow on the right of the question brings up the Question Type drop-down menu.

A multiple-choice question
Use the down arrow on the right to change the Google Survey question type.

A multiple-choice question is set up by default, but there are nine different kinds of input you can request by clicking the down arrow next to the default and bringing up a drop-down menu.

We'll look at seven of those question types in this tutorial.

2. Types of Question

In this section, we examine seven types of Google Forms survey questions you can define. The Question Type drop-down menu appears below.

Question Type drop-down menu
Use the Question type drop-down menu to select a type of question.

Type 1. Short Answer

This question type requests very short text input from the user, such as their name or email address.

To ensure they enter a valid email address click the More icon (it looks like three vertical dots) in the lower right corner of the question. Tick Data validation. Choose Text from the drop-down menu for the first blank and Email address in the second. In the Custom error text blank type "Please enter a valid email address".

Google Forms survey example Short Answer question
Add data validation to your Google survey Short Answer question.

Make a question a required question by sliding the toggle button to the right next to the word "Required" in the lower right corner. A red asterisk appears next to the question in the survey to show that it is required. 

Type 2. Paragraph

This type of question requests a longer response, such as for general comments or feedback. Here is an example of a paragraph question.

Google Forms survey example Paragraph question
You can create a Paragraph question that requires a longer answer.

After you select the question type from the drop-down menu on the right, type the question on the left.

Type 3. Multiple Choice

The Google Forms multiple choice type of question provides a list of answers, and the user can select only one. Add your first answer over the label Option 1, then click over the text for the next option to add the second answer and so on. You can also click Add “Other” to add a blank at the end of the list. The user can add their own choice of answer there.

Google Forms survey example Multiple Choice question
Multiple-choice options in a Google Forms survey.

To remove a multiple-choice option from the question, click on the X to the right of the option.

Type 4. Checkboxes

This is another multiple-choice list, only this time the user can select more than one answer. As with the Multiple Choice question, type in your list of answers and use the  Other option as well if you need to.

You can specify the minimum, maximum or exact number of answers by using the Data Validation option found on the drop-down menu of the More icon in the lower right corner of the question.

Google Forms survey example Checkboxes question
Choose how many responses you want in data validation.

Type 5. Dropdown

This is a multiple-choice style question presented in the form of a drop-down list. The user can only choose one answer, and cannot add their own choice. It's good for absolutes, such as age ranges, rather than opinion-based questions.

Google Forms survey example Dropdown question
Dropdown list questions in a Google Forms survey

You can add an Add All option, although this will not make sense for either/or type questions. For privacy's sake, you can also add a Prefer not to say option, allowing the survey taker to opt out of the question.

Type 6. Linear Scale

Linear Scale asks the respondent to rank things on a scale of, by default, one to five. You can expand the scale up to ten and you can elect to start the scale at zero instead of one. You should provide labels for the lowest and highest scores on the scale for guidance. An example question might be “How satisfied were you with the service you received?”. The label for a score of 1 would be “Very unsatisfied” and 5 would be “Very satisfied”.

The Linear Scale option lends itself to multiple questions, but you can only add one at a time. Create multiple questions quickly by clicking the Duplicate button at the bottom of the question (it looks like two sheets of paper), then rewrite the Question Title in the copy.

Google Forms survey example Linear Scale question
Add a scale to questions where there's no absolute perfect answer.

Type 7. Multiple Choice Grid

A multiple-choice grid allows the user to select pre-defined options for more than one choice. This can be good if you want the user to evaluate a list of items using the same choices.

Notice that the Required slider text changes from Required to Require a response in each row.

Google Forms survey example Multiple Choice grid question
A multiple-choice survey grid allows the user to choose between the same options for multiple items.

Use the More drop-down menu at the bottom of the question to limit the user to one choice for each column.

3. Adding More Questions

When you have finished writing each question click the Add question icon (+) in the lower left corner to add it. Then start another question, choosing the question type from the list.

The Add section icon (=) in the lower right corner enables you to add a new section (Section Header). This helps you organize a longer survey. At the very least it's a good idea to have personal information questions grouped into their own “About you” section.

A Google Forms section
Add new sections to make the Google Forms survey easier to follow.

4. Creating Dynamic Forms

Section breaks are also useful for building more dynamic surveys that will show different questions based on the user's replies.

Here's an example: you're creating a technology survey asking people about their usage of smartphones and tablets. You can make this as relevant as possible by splitting the questions over three sections.

Section 1 contains the multiple-choice question “Do you own a smartphone?”. Option 1 is Yes; Option 2 is No.

From the More drop-down menu at the lower right of the question, select the Go to section based on answer option. For option 1, select continue to next section. For option 2, select Go to section 3 (About You).

Designing a Google Forms responsive survey
You can send users to particular section based on their response.

Section 2 contains your questions about smartphones. Section 3 contains About You demographics questions.

In this example, if someone answers Yes to the question on section 1 it will take them to the smartphone questions on section 2, which will in turn lead on to section 3.

If they answer No on section 1, it will skip the smartphone questions and go straight About You questions on section 3.

This method ensures your survey remains relevant to the participant, and helps maintain the integrity of the data you receive in the process.

5. Finishing Up

Re-order your questions and sections by hovering your mouse over them and dragging them into place. Click Preview on More drop-down menu at the top of the screen to test the form at any time.

Previewing a Google Forms Survey
You can test your Google Forms Survey as you go along.

When you're happy that it all works, edit the Confirmation message that the user will see when they complete the survey. You can access the Confirmation message from the More menu at the top of the screen. Thank the user for taking part and click Save.

Editing the confirmation message
Adding a closing message and actions to your form.

Once your survey is complete, you're now ready to share it. Click the Send icon in the upper right corner of the screen (it looks like a paper airplane). The Send form displays.

Here are the options you can use to deliver the survey:

  1. To send the survey through email, click the Email icon. Fill out the fields and click Send when you are done.
  2. To deliver the survey via a shareable link, click the Link icon. Click Copy to make a copy of the URL.
  3. To put the form on your website, click the Embed HTML icon. Change the Width and Height so that the form will fit your web page (the width is the most important). Click Copy to copy the code and paste it onto your website.
  4. To share the survey through social media, click one of the social media icons on the right.

Here is an example of the Embed HTML dialog box:

Google Forms Embed HTML dialog box
Resize your Google Forms survey to fit it to your web page.

Finally, you want to define how you will store your responses. Click the Responses tab and click the three vertical dots at the  top of the screen. The Responses tab displays:

Response Settings tab
Choose how your survey data will be saved.

Click Select response destination. The survey data is saved to a spreadsheet, so enter a relevant title then click Create. Google Forms creates a Google Sheets spreadsheet and links it to your survey.

Check also that the Responses tab says Accepting responses—if it does your survey is live.

6. Getting Responses

You can check the results at any time. If you chose to export data to a Google Sheets spreadsheet, open the associated spreadsheet from your Google Drive account.

Google Sheets response spreadsheet
Raw Google Forms survey data, once it's finished.

You may need to tweak the appearance of the survey data in your Google Sheets spreadsheet.

Google Sheets can also be set up to send you real-time notifications when a new survey response comes in. Click Tools > Notification Rules. The Set notification rules dialog box displays:

Set Notification Rules dialog box
You can set up real-time notification.

Click the toggle button next to A user submits a form and click Save. You'll receive a real-time email notification each time a user submits a new survey form.

You can also view your responses from within the Google Doc survey. Click the Responses tab. Click Summary to view all the data displayed in easy to read charts and graphs.

Google Survey data summary graph
View the results from your Google Forms survey.

Alternatively, click Individual to see each individual completed survey.  

If you've saved your survey results to a Sheets spreadsheet, you can see the results by going to your Google Drive and finding the spreadsheet associated with the survey.

It's best not to edit that spreadsheet directly, but you can copy and paste the data into another spreadsheet or other document for further analysis. Here's what your spreadsheet might look like after you format it.

Formatted Google Forms survey results
You can format your Google Sheets results spreadsheet.

When you have received enough responses you can close the survey down. On the Responses tab, slide the Accepting Responses toggle to the left and it will change to Not accepting responses. You can add a brief message indicating that the survey is now closed, and you can, of course, turn the form back on at any time.

Conclusion

The Google Forms feature in Google Drive is an extremely powerful tool capable of creating the most complex surveys. It's also intuitive enough that if you want to run a quick poll or competition you can throw one together in just five minutes. 

What lifts it above other survey creation tools is the way it fully integrates with Google Docs and the rest of your Google services. This means you can collaborate with others on creating your surveys, or share the finished product with select people, and then use the power of a spreadsheet to analyze your responses.

Best of all, it is suitable for use in any scenario, just as helpful with powering a vital customer feedback form for your business as it is for sending out your wedding invitations. Give it a try, and let us know in the comments below if you have any trouble with it.

Editorial Note: This post was originally published in 2014. It has been comprehensively revised to make current, accurate, and up to date by our staff—with special assistance from Laura Spencer.

Resources: List icon via iconoci from the Noun Project.

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