20 September 2014

Google gives us a free survey form tool

Sometime back, some of the best free survey tools available were Lime Survey, Survey Monkey and Survey Expression. Lime survey being a very good choice, as it's open source (GPL) and allows you to download the tool and install it on your server. I've personally used it and found the interface to be intuitive. Results can be exported to a spreadsheet and you can view the submitted results in the database and even edit them.

The new kid on the block, is Google's survey forms. Why would anyone continue using other tools for which you have to pay to be able to export the results into a spreadsheet or to use advanced features, when Google provides it for free?

Go to Google Drive
Say no thanks to this

If you're using the older version of Drive, click the red "Create" button. Else, it's the "New" button.
And this is what you can do with forms:

It's got Google's nimble, minimal UI look and feel (which I love) and form options as shown in the image below.

The "Advanced settings" for each question also allows you to specify data validation and shuffling of options (these are options that other softwares will charge you for).

Try a sample form. Tell me about N Recursions
Here's a form I created. Tell me what you like about this blog :-)

Data monitoring
Some creators will allow you to edit your entries even after you've entered them (I skipped that option).
I wouldn't be surprised if Google's algorithms would be monitoring data entered into the forms. This is the one bane of free services. They collect and monitor your data and behavioural patterns. Lime Survey comes to the rescue here, because you can install it on your own server and send out survey links. Nobody other than you monitors the survey data.

Neat, appropriately coloured UI
Most of us Engineers, aren't taught anything about colours and UI. Most people have this concept that they have to use some colour or the other, and end up using what only they like. Many times it turns out to be a weird bunch of colours to others who look at it.
Notice that Google forms use bright colours only where necessary. Only where the User's attention needs to be drawn to. Everywhere else, it's a grey colour.

To persons untrained on colour, grey seems like a very boring choice. Actually it isn't. It's one of the best, un-intrusive options available. If you'd like to learn more, there's some colour theory and the colour wheel.

More options
Oh by the way,  Google forms also allows you to add images and videos.

You can specify if you want the results in a spreadsheet or retained in the form itself.

Best of all, there are themes too:

And once your respondents are done, they can see the results of the survey and some statistics too, in the form of graphs.

Go ahead and create a survey of your own.

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