Using Google Forms / Drive / Docs to create an online surveyFabian Piau | Monday September 24th, 2012 - 11:01 PM
Since the publication of this post, Google Docs still exists but has been renamed in Google Drive, including more services. The URL https://docs.google.com/ is still valid and redirects to https://drive.google.com/. This article has been updated and is still valid. You can also take a look at this FAQ if you have a question.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me how to create a survey easily for free. All the tools he has found were limited in their free version. I remembered that Google Drive provides such a feature. I used it some time ago and it worked pretty well.
That’s also a good idea for a new article. I will show you how to create a survey on Google Drive and how to consult its results.
First of all, go on the Google Drive application. Of course, you need at least a Google account. Then, create a new form.
Your new form shows up in edition mode. You can build your form by adding different type of answers to your questions :
- Short text
- Long text (paragraph)
- Multiple choice
- Choose from a list
Questions can be personalized, depending on the user’s answers. In my example, if the user answers that he likes computing, I’m asking him what programming language he prefers. You can do that by using pages into your form. If computing is selected, the next page is specific about computing, otherwise it is the next page.
In few minutes, I have finished my sample survey, let’s see how does it look! Simply click on the link generated below.
Here we are, you can test but don’t submit the form on the last page. This is not simply a preview, but the final survey!
Default plain theme is not very sexy, you can change it by returning to the edition mode and click on “Theme: Plain”. At this time, about a hundred themes are available, you will certainly find one that matches your needs.
Ok, let’s choose the disco theme.
That’s far better!
Your survey is now ready and you can send the link to all your friends.
Some days have passed, what about the participation? You can check the answers by opening your form again in Google Drive. It will open in the spreadsheet mode. The number of lines tells you how many people have answered to your survey. If you want to go back to the survey, click on Form → Go to live form. Note that it is still possible to modify the survey’s structure (Form → Edit form). Be very careful with that. Especially if some people have started to reply, you risk to mess up your data and the final result will not be good…
4 people have replied, Google provides a statistical preview of the result with some useful graphs. To access it, click on Form → Show summary of responses.
The results page is read-only. If you are not satisfied with this, you will have to export the results table, open it with your favorite spreadsheet processor and create your own graphs.
Other features exist such as making a question mandatory, adding an help text, sharing your survey on social networks, closing it, etc.
You can try the sample survey I have created for this post.
It doesn’t sync ?!
Since I wrote this article, many people commented to ask about the synchronization process between the summary of responses and the spreadsheet. Let’s go into some more details about this mysterious part… In fact, there is a one way relationship:
- After someone answers to the survey and submits the form, a row is added to the responses table (spreadsheet).
- But, modifying manually the table itself (add or delete rows) does not have any impact on the summary.
Actually, this table is a copy of the responses, the “real” ones are embedded in the form and are not visible or editable.
The diagram below gives an overview of the system (click on the image to enlarge).