True Fact

Survey Your Audience with Google Forms

Kristi-Lynn Jacovino
Kristi-Lynn Jacovino
Aug 9, 2019 • 9 min read
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Creating surveys with Google Forms is easy and FREE and if you've already got a Google account (ie Gmail) then you're ready to get started right now. Let's take a quick look at how you can set up the survey, share it, and analyze the results. I'm going to use a satisfaction survey that I created for my own nonprofit organization, Traffic Jam!. Let's get started!

Graph Mcsdtbwxuzu Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Setting Up Your First Survey

Ok, so first things first, we have to create a survey. Now I'm assuming you've already got a Google account, whether you have a Gmail email address or if your company or organization uses G Suite, one way or another, you need a Google account. If you need to create one, go to gmail.com and sign up!

Now that you're in your Google Account, head over to Google Drive. If you haven't checked out Google Drive before, it's a great place to store documents 'in the cloud' and it's also where we're going to create our form. To get to Google Drive, go to drive.google.com.

In Google Drive, we're going to go to 'New' on the upper left side, and then we'll go to 'More' and find Google Forms. There's two options in there, you can start with a blank form, or you can choose from their templates. If this is your first form, it might help to see if one of their templates can get you started faster. Alas, they don't really have a survey template, but using a template can demonstrate some of the capabilities of Google Forms.

Using the form is pretty straight forward, you can add questions using the + symbol next to the form, and you can choose the type of question in the dropdown.

Google Form Question Type

Question Types

The question types are broken down into 5 different sections. Let's break down each field type:

  • Short answer: for one line open ended responses
  • Paragraph: for longer open ended responses
  • Multiple Choice: for questions that the user must choose a single response
  • Checkboxes: for questions that the user might choose more than one response
  • Dropdown: another format for questions that the user must choose a single response
  • File upload: if you need the users to upload a file as part of their response
  • Linear scale: for a range of 1-5 style responses (e.g. Very Satisfied to Not at all Satisfied)
  • Multiple choice grid: for a grid of single selection options (kinda combines the linear scale and the multiple choice question types)
  • Checkbox grid: for a grid of multiple selection options (kinda combines the linear scale and the checkboxes)
  • Date: allows the user to pick a date from a calendar
  • Time: allows the user to pick a time

Breaking Your Survey into Sections

Sections are helpful for breaking your survey up into, well, sections. These are great for two reasons. First, it breaks the survey down for both you (when creating it) and the user (when they're completing it). It's a good way to keep your questions organized by context.

For my dance survey, we broke it down into general questions (how'd you hear about us? how often do you come?), quality questions (how's the music? how's the variety?), lesson attendance questions (what level of dancer are you? how often do you come to our lessons?), lesson quality questions (how are the teachers? how is the material?), and a final thoughts section.

Second, you can use sections as next steps depending on a users response. For instance, our dance survey has a section that only people who have never attended our dance can see, and we only send them there if they select that they've never been to our dance which is one of our 'general questions'—we wanna know why they haven't come!

You can break your survey up however you want, and to create a new section, click the icon in the sidebar (where you click the + to add questions) all the way at the bottom that looks like two rectangles stacked on top of each other. This will create a new section.

Google Form Response To Section

Forcing a Response to a Specific Section

When you're creating a question, you can choose which responses go to which section. Next to the 'Required' option at the bottom, you'll see three dots stacked on top of each other. This icon will give you additional options for the question. If you click on "Go to section based on answer" you'll be able to choose which section each question will lead you to.

Note: It helps if you create the sections first, otherwise you'll have no sections to choose from.

You'll also notice under the section a dropdown next to "After section #". This dropdown is helpful if you want users to go to a specific section after completing all the questions in that section, regardless of their responses.

Google Form Question Type

Styling Your Form

You also have some options, albeit limited, for styling your form. If you click the icon near the top right that looks like a painter's palette, a panel will open up from the right where you can choose colors, a font (their options are devastatingly limited here), and you can upload a header image. They have some fun header images in there that you can choose from too, kinda like themes.

Other Options

There are a few other options I want to mention before we get to sharing your survey. If you click the little settings cog next to the "Send" button, you'll see a panel with a few tabs—General, Presentation, and Quizzes.

Google Form Other Options

Under General, if you're sending this out as a survey to a lot of anonymous users, you'll probably want to make sure that under the General tab everything is UNchecked. We don't want to collect emails, we don't want to restrict our users, we don't want to limit to 1 response (because that requires them to sign in to respond), and we don't need them to be able to edit their response or see a summary of responses. Uncheck all of it.

Under Presentation, I recommend not showing the progress bar only if you have sections that not everyone who takes the survey will see. In general, a progress bar is a great way to let users know how much survey they have left to fill out, but it can be a little confusing if they end up skipping sections because, say, they haven't attended a dance. We also don't want to shuffle the questions since we ordered our survey in a specific manner. Finally, we don't want to show a link to submit another response unless maybe we're going to be giving this survey out in person at an event.. then when someone finishes the survey, they can click the link to refresh it for the next person.

I do recommend customizing the Confirmation message though, this is what the user will see after they complete the survey, so I like to thank them for taking the time to fill out the survey.

Once you've got all your questions ready and you've styled your form as best you can, it's time to share it!

Sharing Your Survey

There are a couple ways to share your survey. To get started, click the 'Send' button in the upper right corner. This will open the share panel.

Google Form Share

There are three tabs here, and they're icon-based. The first is to send your survey to specific email addresses. This might be great if you're surveying just a handful of people and you want to limit the survey to them, but not entirely practical for surveying a large group of people.

The second is the one we're going to use, and that's the link icon. In here, you'll see a very long link to your survey. If you click the box to shorten the URL it'll at least make it a little more manageable. If you copy that link, you can add it into an email newsletter, share it on social media, or you can post it on your website somewhere. There's really no limit to this one. Anyone who has that link will be able to see your form and fill it out.

The last option is to embed the form. This means that the form can be dropped into a web page (on your own website) where users can fill it out directly. If you've got a little coding knowledge or if you are using a content management system like WordPress, you can usually dump this piece of code into an editor (if you click the code button in your WordPress text editor you can paste this code right in there) and then the form will be part of your website. I don't personally love this option only because I'd rather just link to the form from my website, but it's a pretty easy to set up if you do want to go that route.

They also threw in some Facebook and Twitter buttons to give you a jump start if you want to share via social media.

Ok, last up, let's talk about analyzing the responses.

Survey Results

This is my favorite part of using Google Forms—they do a BUNCH of the data presentation for you! Let's take a look!

Google Form Results

Data Collection

I recommend when you allow Google to create a spreadsheet of the responses, that way you have them independent of the Google Form. You can set this up easily. If you click on "Responses" at the top of your survey, this is where the responses will go. To create the spreadsheet, click the green and white flag looking icon in the top right of that section. This represents Google Sheets, Google's spreadsheet service in Google Drive.

Once you click the Google Sheets icon, you'll have the option to create a new spreadsheet or connect this survey to an existing spreadsheet. Choose to create a new one, and your spreadsheet will wind up in the same place as your Google Form in Google Drive. This spreadsheet will automatically populate with your survey's questions and whenever someone completes the survey, their responses will populate in the spreadsheet as well.

Data Visualization

Google does so much of the leg work on data visualization for you. If you ask a multiple choice question, it will show the responses in a pie chart. If you have a linear scale question, you'll get a bar graph. If you have a checkboxes question, you'll get a bar graph of the responses as well. Open ended questions, well, they just show you what everyone said.

It's a really great way to get a quick overview of the responses and you don't even need to be a data scientist to understand the results.

Final Thoughts

I know this seems like a lot of instructions, but trust me when I say that using Google Forms is really straight forward, and once you get the hang of it, you'll want to use it for everything. Yes, it's great for surveys, but we've also used to to set up waiting lists for events, raffle entries for ticket giveaways, even t-shirt orders. It's a great tool to have in your pocket and it's totally free!

If you need advice or guidance setting up your Google Form, that's what I'm here for! Why not schedule a free consultation?!

Google Google Forms Survey Data Collection How To
Kristi-Lynn Jacovino

Kristi-Lynn Jacovino

I help organizations grow their impact through better use of technology. Also, I love cats and swing dancing and sleep.

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