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Grow Your Business Technology

How to Use Google Forms for Business

Google Forms
Credit: Google Forms

Designing a form, getting it distributed and then gathering the data is one of those jobs that can seem incredibly daunting the first time, but a tool like Google Forms is easy to learn and incredibly powerful. Whether you are doing something as simple as an RSVP form or collecting contact information, or something more complicated like conducting a survey or quiz, Google Forms should make the process quick and painless for you and your respondents.

This guide takes you through the basics of Google Forms. and then shows you a few tips and tricks when you are ready to take things to the next level.

There is nothing to install with Google Forms; simply sign into your Google account and navigate to docs.google.com/forms, and you are ready to get started.

You will notice the "Start a new form" section at the top of the page has several templates in it. If you click on "Template Gallery" in the upper-right corner this will expand to reveal more than a dozen templates across three categories (Personal, Work and Education). While they don't cover everything, there's a good chance that one of these templates will be a better jumping off point for you than a blank form.

Credit: Google Forms Credit: Google Forms Credit: Google Forms

Your next step will be to customize the form. Start by clicking the palette icon at the top. This allows you to select a simple color for your theme or an image (stock images are available or you can upload your own) for the header. A complimentary color will automatically be selected for the sides. If you want to see your form as a respondent will see it, just hit the eye icon at the top of the screen for a quick preview.

Credit: Google Forms

Immediately adjacent to preview is the gear icon with the settings. These aren't too overwhelming, and contain a few vital features. The first option in general settings is whether you collect email addresses. If this checkbox is toggled respondents will be asked for their email address just before submitting. Additional general options can limit users to a single response per Google account, allow for editing of responses, and offer the ability to view summary charts and text responses once users have submitted their form.

The presentation settings lets you add a progress bar. For multi-section forms, this gives users a percentage complete at the bottom of each page, and can be helpful for keeping users going on longer surveys. Last up are the quiz settings. If you toggle this on, you can assign correct answers and point values to all your questions, which is not likely relevant for most business uses, but a great feature when you need it.

Moving to the body of the form, the main toolbox appears to the right of the content of your form with five icons that will allow you to add: a question, a title, an image, a video or a new section.

New questions are the most important of these options, the default is a multiple-choice question, but you have 11 total options, varying from a text box for a short answer question to a linear scale for providing ratings. The question templates are easy to understand with a text box at the top for the question itself and pre-populated information in the question box that help guide you through filling it out. At the bottom of each question box are icons to duplicate or delete the question, a toggle for making the question a required response, and a menu icon for any additional options.

Credit: Google Forms

The next three tools are straightforward: They simply create a box with a title, an image or a video. These can be used for clarifying a new section of your survey or in the case of an image or video they can provide relevant content for a series of questions.

The final tool is used to add a new section to your form, which is the equivalent of adding a new page. This is critical for longer surveys or quizzes to break things up visually and prevent users from scrolling endlessly down a single page. Each section features a menu icon in the upper-right corner that allows you to duplicate, move, delete or merge it with the section above it.

To get the form to users, simply hit the "Send" button in the upper-right corner of your form. This takes you to a pop-up menu with your sharing options.

At the top of this menu is a checkbox to collect the email addresses of any respondents, if you didn't already select this option in the settings. This is particularly helpful for business users looking to build a mailing list.

There are the three main methods for distributing the form: email, a URL and an embed code. There are also icons for sharing to Google+, Facebook and Twitter. Email allows you to personalize the subject and a brief message and offers the option to include the form in the email. The URL is self-explanatory; the only option there is to shorten it. Finally, the embed HTML code will let you place the form directly in your website, you can customize the pixel width and height of the form.

Credit: Google Forms

The second tab on your form is "Responses," which collects user responses as they come in. Once you have some responses, two new tabs will appear. One allows you to view response data in a summary view that will provide basic graphs of the response data, and the other is an individual view that will show you a single respondent's completed form. In the individual view you can delete a single user's responses if you feel they should not be included for any reason.

Credit: Google Forms

Some additional options are available by clicking the menu icon in the upper-right corner of the responses tab. You can opt to receive email notifications for all new responses, choose where the response data is saved, unlink the form from a spreadsheet, download all responses as a .csv file, print all responses and finally delete all responses.

When you are done collecting responses this is also where you will toggle the form off. This option is prominent in the upper-right corner of this tab, and will stop new data from coming in.

Now you have a few basic Google Forms, and you are ready to dig a little deeper. While the standard features cover a pretty wide range already, there are extra tricks to be mined in Forms.

In early 2016, Google brought support for Google's Apps Scripts and add-ons to Forms. These tools provide a lot of additional functionality to the core Forms product. These can be found by clicking the menu icon in the upper-right corner of any Google Form. Add-ons are typically quite accessible while using Google's Apps Scripts, and require some familiarity with Javascript.

Google Forms Add-Ons Credit: Google Forms

One of the most popular add-ons is Form Publisher, while takes the data submitted via your Form and generates a Docs, Sheets or Slides file based on a template. It can even automatically export a PDF of the file and send that to a specified email address or multiple addresses. Some of the more common use cases are for contracts and invoices, but this would work for any instance that requires a cleaner output than the raw data available directly in Google Forms.

Email Notifications for Forms is another powerful add-on for business users. As mentioned previously, you can receive email notifications for all responses to your Forms, but this allows you to customize the content of the emails and specify who they are sent to. You can even use conditional formatting to send notification emails to a specific account based on responses to questions in the form. This can turn a basic customer feedback form into an actual customer service workflow.

The AppSheet add-on allows you to transform a Google Form into a custom mobile app that you can deploy to your team or even customers. There's no coding involved – simply take your Form and build on top of it with the AppSheet App Editor. Some of the capabilities available are barcode scanning, GPS and Maps, Offline access and image capture. The possibilities with this add-on are almost endless, but to provide a couple examples, you could build an equipment inventory management app that uses a barcode scanner to check items in and out, or an app for lead tracking with built-in charts and sharing capabilities.

While the details of coding using Google's Apps Scripts are beyond the scope of this article, there are relatively simple tasks that can be carried out for those with only a minimal grasp of Javascript. This blog post from Google Developers for example shows you how to automate the creation of Google Forms, in the event that you needed the same Form created many times over. This would dramatically reduce the work involved, as the basic code can be run to generate a new Form instantly rather than reproducing it via the Forms editor.