Need to do an online survey? Maybe you need to collect inventory information for your company assets, create an online job application for your company’s HR department or simply collect input from readers of your website. Forms can get very complicated and time consuming if done from scratch. Google Docs however, has simplified the process tremendously, allowing developers to create powerful online web forms without ever having to deal with code. Google Docs not only allows you to create the web form, but also host it on its web servers so you can send the link via email or incorporate it on your website. In this article I will describe how to create an online web form using Google docs.
Create the Form
For this tutorial, we will be creating a simple asset inventory form for computer equipment. The form will be displayed as a webpage, with users having access to it via a link (or the actual page) being sent to them on an email. The form can be embedded on a website as well.
Create a free Google Docs account if you don’t already have one, and login.
Near the top right hand side of the screen, click on “Create New” and then “Form“.
You will be presented with a simple form you can edit. The current question you are editing will be displayed with a yellow background. The first question will be a “Text” based question, so you do not have to delete the default first question, just edit it. In this question you will be asking for the person’s name. Make sure to mark the question as “required”, so users cannot skip it.
To create a new question go to the top left hand side of the Google Docs interface and click on “Add Items” and then on “Multiple choice“. This will create a question with a number of items the user will be able to choose from. In this question you will be asking for the computer type.
Enter the question’s title. Add the first Item on the menu “Desktops” and then the second “Laptops“. Check the box to make it a required question and click “Done“.
Add a final “text” question to ask for computers’ serial numbers. And click on the “Done” button to finish.
Add a Template
Now that we finished making our simple computer equipment inventory form, we are going to change its looks, to make it more appealing to the public.
Next to the “Add Item” button you will find the “Theme” button; click on it to see a wide variety of themes. Click the one most appealing to you, then hit the “Apply” button. For this project I picked the “Binary Blue” theme.
Making the Form Accessible on the Web
Once we are done creating our form it will be automatically published by Google Docs. We now need to notify our users of its existence and how to reach it. Google Docs provides two methods to accomplish this: You can embed the form in a website or email it. For this project we are going to be emailing the form.
In the top menu bar of the Google docs form menu, next to the “Add items” and “Theme” buttons, you will find the “Email this form” button. Enter all email addresses you want to send the form to in the space provided, using a comma to separate them. Press “send” button to send the form.
Google Docs Forms will store the answers from each user on a spreadsheet. To view this spreadsheet, go to the forms menu and click on “See responses“, then click on “spreadsheet“. You can return to edit the form by clicking on “Form” and then “Edit form“.
Google Docs will graph the data for you as well. On the main forms edit menu, click on “See responses” and then “Summary”
One evident drawback of Google docs forms is that you cannot create conditional questions. Questions will never change depending on the answer of previous ones. In our tutorial it would have been useful to have the possibility that, once a person had chosen whether he has a laptop or a desktop, the next question would have offered a list of possible model numbers depending on the outcome of the previous answer. Separate lists of available model numbers for laptops and desktops would have minimized possible user errors. However this is not possible.