Create surveys and polls with Google Docs

In case you haven’t heard of it yet, like I did until a few moments, you can actually create and evaluate simple surveys with your Google Docs account and it is the most easiest thing to do compared to other survey services.

You start in Google Docs by creating a new form. This will open a new tab or window with an almost empty new form. Eventually (after adding some items) it should look like this:

All the basic items that you would possibly need to create  a decent survey are already at hand, find them at the upper left corner (see 1 in the picture above). There are 7 types of questions to choose from:

  • Text
    This offers a small, single-lined text field, probably most appropriate for questions which only need one word as an answer
  • Paragraph Text
    Same as the Text yet offers a bigger, multi-lined text field. Use this for any free answers.
  • Multiple Choice
    Creates a radio-button for each pre-stated answer you enter in the fields below. Needed when you want users to select just one answer
  • Checkboxes
    Similar to the Multiple Choice yet creates checkboxes to let users choose as much pre-stated answers as they like
  • Choose from a list
    Creates a drop down menu from which users can select also just one of the given options.  More appropriate for many pre-stated answers with little text, like ranges of age.
  • Scale
    Lets you create any scale from 0 or 1 to whatever number you like (up until 10). Make sure to label each side of the scale to show what the range of the scale means.
  • Grid
    Table version of the Multiple Choice radio-buttons. Typically the rows offer some kind of statement or question and the coloumns label options for the user to choose from.

You may have noticed by now that you can set each question to be required for completing the survey.  Also the buttons to the right of your currently selected question (or other item) allow you to duplicate the current item or trash it (see 2).
Speaking of other items, you can also add Section Header to divide your survey into chapters and to lighten things up you can enter Page Breaks so users aren’t confronted with a huge scrollbar.

After you have filled your form with all questions and pre-stated answers hit the Theme button (see 3) to beautify your result. There are quite a lot good themes for any purpose so you won’t need to stick with dull plain white. Have a look:

When it’s all set and done, spread the word by sending e-mail invites via the toolbar on the upper right corner (see 4, first picture).

All answers will be stored with a timestamp in a GDocs spreadsheet from which you can export the results in any kind you like (csv or Excel probably).
Now comes the really cool part. These results can also be shown as ready-to-go charts, summarizing all answers in total numbers as well as percentages. You can keep these evalutions for yourself or enable participants to view the results right after they’ve taken your survey.

Pretty neat.

Now of course there have to be some drawbacks. These forms are really simple to use and with simplicity must come some sort of cut. It seems the invites to a survey bear no access key nor does the form use some sort of cookie to prevent participants from participating again. Keep that in mind if you rely on results that need to state some representatively significance.
Also there is (yet) no way to apply dynamic questions in order to show questions according to previous answers.

On the bright side you dont have to install anything on your own server (or even need to have a server) which almost all of the other free survey tools require.

Have a try at my demo survey to get a glimpse of the look&feel of GDocs forms or just create your own right away.


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