There are many different websites for creating web-based surveys, but all you need is a Google account and Google Docs. Easily create a survey with Google Forms, sending the results directly to Google Sheets.

Unlike various online survey services, Google doesn’t put a limit on the amount of responses you can receive. They aren’t trying to upsell you to a fancy paid survey service.

Create a Survey

To get started, sign into your Google Drive account, click New, point to More, and select Google Forms. You can also start from the Google Forms web page, clicking the Create a free form link.

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The actual process of building a survey — or form — is pretty simple. If you’ve ever used Google Docs before, you should feel right at home. By default, Google Forms creates a simple form with a single question, and you can enter a title for the form, a question, and answers.

You can continue adding as many questions as you want with the Add item button. You can have the user select one item from a list, check as many items off as they want, or type a response into a small text box type a paragraph into a larger text box.

The Add Item button also allows you to add additional formatting elements, so you can divide your survey into sections, split it into multiple pages, or add images and videos.

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Despite its simple look, you can do a lot with this tool. For example, you can send survey-takers to different pages of questions depending on how they answer a question. You can randomize the order of the questions. Google Apps users can automatically collect the email address of respondents on their domain. You can customize your confirmation page and choose whether to show people who have answered the quiz a summary of the answers others provided.

And, as with other Google Docs files, you can invite people to work on the survey with you and work on it together in real time.

Preview Your Survey

To preview your survey, click the “View live form” button at the top of the document. The form is hosted on Google’s website, just like shared Googel Docs files, but it’s interactive. You can’t hide the prominent “Never submit passwords through Google Forms” warning, which exists to ensure phishers can’t make convincing fake login dialogs and trick people into submitting their Google password.

If you think the default plain-white survey theme looks a bit bland and boring, you can click the Change theme button and choose a theme. Click the View live form button again after to preview how it looks.

Share Your Survey

Now you have a survey, but you need to provide a link to other people so they can actually fill it out. Just click the Send Form button at the top-right corner of the page and you’ll get an URL. This URL is a public address. Anyone who visits it can fill out your form. You can email this link to various people, share it on social media, send it via SMS or instant message, post it on a website, or do whatever else you want with it.

View the Responses

If you just need to see a quick summary of your overall responses, you can click View > Summary of Responses while editing the form to see a simple summary of your responses — pie charts, bar graphs, lists, and whatever else is appropriate. This should be pretty good for most people creating a simple survey.

You can also output your responses to a spreadsheet, which allows you to do much more with the data. While editing the form, click Responses > Choose response destination. You’ll be able to create a new spreadsheet or a new sheet in an existing spreadsheet file. When someone submits new responses through your form, the data will be entered directly into the spreadsheet. When you link a form to a spreadsheet, all the previously submitted responses will be sent straight to that spreadsheet, so you don’t have to worry about losing data.

The spreadsheet can function as a simple list of the responses you receive. You can also use all the typical spreadsheet-manipulation and data-analysis tools to work with the data.

That’s about it. Google Forms isn’t the only tool for creating web-based surveys, and you’ll probably find ones with fancier features and interfaces out there. But Google Forms is simple and easy to use, with no limits on the number of questions you can enter or responses you can receive. And it gets all that juicy data right into a Google Docs spreadsheet so you can start analyzing it immediately.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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