A long time ago, in workplaces that now seem far, far away, creating a document or spreadsheet on your computer meant firing up the old licensed software. Forms were still paper-based and to most of us, “the cloud” still meant those things floating in the air.
Today, the idea of software as a service is universal and supported by the cloud, which enables all the computing that we do. While the tree lovers in us will say there’s still too much paper being used, forms have largely migrated online as well.
As anyone conducting business might expect, there are very few things online, including productivity tools, in which Google isn’t involved.
As cloud computing — a term Google CEO Eric Schmidt is credited with coining in 2006 — and document collaboration gained traction, what was popularly known as the “G Suite” debuted. With Google Calendar, Docs, Slides, and Sheets, it offered businesses an alternative to traditional office software that was practical and collaborative.
Like many things Google put its mind to, G Suite was very successful. As of October 2020, G Suite (renamed Google Workspace) had grown to approximately 60-percent market share in major office suite technologies.
Originally part of Google Sheets as a survey feature, Google Forms was created so users could collect data and customer responses. That connection is still evident as the fastest way to get your data into a new or existing Google Sheet is by starting a form from your Google Sheet and automatically linking your data for a smooth workflow.
By the time Google Forms launched as a standalone app at the beginning of 2016, it was a strong alternative to other form builders. Google Forms boasted new features and add-ons for business and individual users, including
- The ability to create polished documents and PDFs from forms
- The ability to view survey responses directly from the form editor
- Templates that cover work, education, events, email notifications, and more
Google’s widespread reach
A huge advantage of any Google productivity solution is the existing (or potential) connectivity with all of Google’s products. Whether it’s software (cloud storage, communication, online applications, operating systems, the browser) or hardware (Android phones, Chromebooks, AI speakers, home security devices), the ability to leverage and access your data has many applications.
For example, let’s say you’re distributing a math quiz to your students. After developing the quiz with Google Forms, you can easily distribute the quiz via Gmail and have students respond from their inboxes.
You can then set your quiz responses to automatically load into your Google Sheets for analysis later on. A few months later, when you’re at home preparing final class grades on the couch and need to access the quiz data, among other test scores, it could be as easy as saying “hey Google” to your Nest audio device to retrieve your data.
It’s the dream of every business to become so widely adopted that its very name is associated with the noun you’re describing (think Xerox for a copy or Kleenex for a tissue). But as Wired magazine noted, it’s something else altogether when that brand name becomes a newfound verb, symbolizing the action one takes to do something.
In 2006, when the Oxford English Dictionary added “google,” meaning to type a search keyword or phrase into Google’s search engine, it was clear that Google, the brand, had become the first resource for many of us when we needed an answer, to anything.
This remains true for business needs as well. While Google may not be the best solution for everything, we feel confident that it will deliver sound and effective solutions for most things.
Google Forms appeals to users by offering a solution that’s simple and effective. As part of the Google Workspace ecosystem, Google Forms amplifies your workflow and productivity: Gmail for messaging, Google Sheets for analysis, and Google Drive for storage together make data collection seamless and more efficient.
Google Forms may not have all the bells and whistles to satisfy enthusiasts in the space, but that doesn’t mean it can’t meet the basic needs and criteria many users have of a data-collection tool.
In this guide, we’ll take a close look at ideal Google Forms users, how you can use Google Forms, and how to get the most out of the platform’s features. We’ll also share which form add-ons and widgets you can use to help organize your workflow so you can be as efficient as possible.
Who benefits from using Google Forms?
Google Forms is for everyone. The forms are free to use. However, if you’re not one of 1.5 billion people who already have an account, you’ll first need to sign up for a Google/Gmail account to begin creating forms. Creating a Google account is simple and involves very few steps.
The good news for everyday users is that Google Forms is accessible and caters to the general public. The forms and form functions are practical, easy to use, and a good solution for those who need to get responses for a variety of needs.
Here’s a closer look at the ideal users of Google Forms based on the benefits and features it offers.
You can argue that teachers and educators have become the primary audience for Google Forms. In 2019, there were 90 million teachers and students using G Suite for education worldwide. When you pair that with the 40 million using the learning management system Google Classroom and 30 million students with Chromebooks, it’s clear that educators find value in Google’s products.
Given that we’re a full year into the global pandemic, it stands to reason those numbers have risen. 2020 was a game changer for learning as students and educators alike were forced into remote classes. This increased an already significant dependence on technology.
Luckily, Google Forms provides a nifty solution to help you create and administer quizzes, build surveys, and much more. When you select Make this a quiz in the form settings, quiz mode enables you to automatically assign point values to questions and allows auto-grading. This helps simplify your workflow and save time grading papers.
It can be tricky to make sure students complete online quizzes without cheating. Google Forms assists you here by offering “locked mode” for quizzes, which prevents the student from opening another tab or app while taking the quiz. (The locked mode feature can only be used with managed Chromebooks and isn’t compatible with other computers or mobile devices.)
If a student attempts to navigate away from the tab while taking the quiz, the quiz will automatically be submitted.
You can make your quizzes and surveys unique to your class/school by customizing the header image, the document and background color, and the font style. When you’re ready to analyze and organize the data you’ve collected, it’s as simple as clicking the green square icon in the upper right of the Responses tab to create a new Google Sheet or adding your collected data to an existing Google Sheet.
Survey researchers of all shapes and sizes
Whether surveying family members about where to take your next vacation or a small number of patients participating in a new drug trial, you need detailed and specific responses. Google Forms originated as a survey tool so it’s a natural and user-friendly fit for getting answers to your strategic questions.
You can customize Google Forms in many ways to create the best survey possible. For example, because most surveys need to measure a range of feelings, you can use the linear scale functionality where respondents can rate how they feel about your question on a scale that starts at 0 or 1, and goes up to any number from 2 to 10.
The accuracy of survey responses is critical since you’re ultimately making decisions (sometimes product or business decisions) based on the responses. To ensure the accuracy of your responses, use Google Forms’s response validation on the short answer, paragraph, and checkbox question types. This gives you the power to make sure email addresses are entered correctly or certain words are mentioned in answers.
While everyone can use Google Forms, it might not be the best option for some researchers. For instance, Google Forms is limited in terms of conditional logic. If you need to show users different questions or scenarios based on the answers they give, your complex logic sets might require a more robust form builder.
As a nonprofit organization, your organization operates on a limited budget. But you need to survey your donors and track how much time your volunteers donate. Google for Nonprofits offers G Suite, Google Ad grants, and more for free (or at minimal cost) to help organizations streamline their operations.
If the lifeblood of a nonprofit is your support network, consistent communication with that network is the daily nourishment.
Using forms to gather supporter feedback is a turnkey way to get important donor/volunteer information and interact with these constituencies. With Google Forms, you and your supporters can communicate and share information from anywhere in the world and on any device.
Plus, Google Forms integrates across G Suite for Nonprofits to help you sign up and train volunteers on Google Meet or YouTube Live, while collaborating with colleagues in real time on Google Docs. By operating in the cloud, your team can work in and access the same information, improving organizational efficiency.
To qualify for Google for Nonprofits, your organization must be a registered charity, not a government organization or healthcare or academic institution. Google partners with TechSoup to confirm your nonprofit status.
New and small businesses
Nothing is more important for your business than your customers. So getting their feedback on your brand, products, shopping experience, and more is imperative.
Google Forms enables turnkey communication with your customers through order forms, surveys, and questionnaires at little to no cost. You’ll be able to view all your responses individually or as a group, in real time, and as a neat graph or bar chart.
Chances are, you’ll need to work with stakeholders within your business (customer support or product development are just two examples) to create questionnaires and analyze results. Google Forms allows you to add collaborators to your form so you can work together without having to send out multiple versions of your file.
To slice and dice your raw data, you can use the Form Publisher add-on to convert your response data into a Google Doc or Sheet.
The Form Publisher can also automatically export a PDF of your form. This is great if you need to email a simple invoice or waiver to your partners.
But be aware that if you need to use your forms to take customer orders or collect payments, you might need a more feature-heavy data-collection solution, as Google Forms doesn’t support payment processing.
Perhaps no industry has undergone a transformation like event management. Everything from marketing conferences to birthday parties has been reimagined to go fully online in the last year, and Google Forms has been essential in facilitating registrations, appointments, reminder notifications, and more.
Event planning lends itself well to the cross functionality of the Google Workspace. For example, after event attendees sign up for sessions at an event, you can easily create and email a personalized itinerary to them.
Additionally, you can use Google Docs and Slides so that everyone can contribute to discussions and presentations. When your event is over, Google Forms helps you collect attendee and participant feedback to learn what went well and what needs improvement.
Did you know?
Google Forms can cover many data-collection needs, but some use cases require more advanced functionality. For example, e-commerce and online merchants need payment collection functionality and higher security.
Healthcare professionals need to collect signatures for consent, screenings, and medical histories, and can’t automatically collect them through Google Forms (you need a specific add-on to collect signatures in Google forms).
As another example, project managers need feature-rich forms as well as integrations with robust project management tools that can accommodate multiple stakeholders with varying degrees of access. In these and other cases, users may need to find a more advanced software solution.
How to get the most out of Google Forms
Getting the most out of something depends on what you’re using it for. In this section, we’ll tackle how you can use certain Google Forms features to maximize your upcoming quiz, customer feedback effort, survey, or registration.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Similar to other data-collection solutions, Google Forms has premade templates that allow you to easily create forms. Templates for contact information, quizzes, registration, requests, customer feedback forms, and more already exist. It’s simple to customize the templates to fit your purposes (whether copy or images) or create your own from scratch.
You can save the templates you create under your organization or account name so you and your colleagues can use them in the future. Just create your form, then click the icon with the three stacked dots and select Make a copy. Anyone with access to your form can make their own copy so all colleagues have access to your team templates.
You can select a template from either the Work, Personal, or Education categories by clicking Template Gallery in your Google Forms dashboard. When you select a template, the form will be saved to your Drive and you can customize it by adding or editing questions, adjusting the background and theme color, and selecting a font.
Show off your range with the linear scale
For survey users perhaps the most practical feature is the linear scale field because it allows users to select a number in a range from lowest to highest. The scale starts at 0 or 1, and ends on a whole number from 2 to 10.
For example, if you’re surveying users on how they feel about your new product, you may want a linear scale that ranges from 1 to 5. In Google Forms you can add a label to associate with each pole position, so 1 would be equal to “don’t like it” and 5 would be equal to “my dream product.”
Also, as a fun twist, instead of words for your labels, you can use emojis to symbolize the range of your respondents’ feelings.
Using a linear scale in your Google Form makes it easy for your participants to provide their responses in a way that doesn’t require a ton of thinking. Besides, visceral, gut responses are the kind of feedback you want from customers or participants about your product or business. This gives you confidence that the decisions you’re making is attuned to your customers’ wishes.
Also, you want as high a response and satisfaction rate for your survey as possible. Linear scales help respondents answer more quickly, and the less time they have to spend on a survey, the higher the likelihood they’ll complete it.
Just so you know
Because the linear scale doesn’t allow the user to provide context for their response, you may want to pair it with a paragraph field question. That way the user can give even more insight about what they do or don’t like, and provide more informed data to your team.
Multiple-choice grid or Likert scale
One Google Forms feature that teachers love is the multiple-choice grid. It allows you to effectively ask a group of questions within one framework (i.e., match the parts of the human body to the job they do), but also makes grading quizzes easier and less time-consuming by automating the process.
Simply add a question to your form and select the multiple-choice grid in the feature dropdown. In the rows and columns, add your questions and answer selections respectively. Then, in the answer key, add the correct answers. Finished quizzes will be automatically assigned point values based on the answers given.
Of course, the multiple-choice grid can be used for almost any purpose and is frequently used for business data collection or questionnaires because of its ability to serve as a Likert scale.
Remember, when putting your multiple-choice grid together, be sure to “preview” your setup by clicking the eye icon in the top right navigation. The way the grid renders when you’re setting it up may look different on the user’s screen or on a mobile device.
Randomize your questions
Teachers know that some students will look for ways to cheat the system for a better score. A quiz with the same questions in the same order given via the same process online? It’s only a matter of time before everyone starts getting 100 percent.
Also, academic researchers require high standards of integrity for the data they’re collecting. If respondents simply “check the boxes” for the sake of finishing, the data becomes worthless.
To combat these issues, Google Forms lets you randomize answers (and questions), or shuffle the order. Using this feature is as easy as finding and clicking the three stacked dots in the bottom right corner of your field (next to the Required toggle). Select Shuffle option order, and your answer choices will be randomized.
This functionality is highly sought-after by educators and institutions alike as it provides an obvious advantage when quizzing at scale.
JotForm offers similar functionality via a form widget that rearranges your questions to display each of them randomly in a different position on the form. This provides your form with a unique look for every user. The widget also allows you to ignore certain fields and shuffle others so some of the fields stay in the same position.
Did you know?
Currently, Google Forms enables only form answers to be “shuffled.” However, there is a workaround to shuffle questions within a section. Depending on the length of your quiz or questionnaire, the workaround can lead to a longer completion time, which may affect your conversion rate.
Let’s say your nonprofit has a volunteer drive, and you need drivers and cooks. But you want your signup form to show different fields based on whether your volunteer identifies as a cook or driver. That’s where dynamic fields come into play.
While limited in scope, Google Forms offers a dynamic field that allows questions to change as the user navigates the form (specifically, creating multiple sections in your form that will redirect to other sections based on a user’s responses).
To employ this functionality, create or select the multiple-choice question on which you’d like to base the section path. Create as many sections as you need based on the information you’re seeking from both branches of respondents. Specify which section(s) you’d like respondents to follow, then link the list of your answers to the associated section(s).
The dynamic fields capability in Google Forms offers only the ability to jump to different sections of the form and doesn’t provide more complex conditional logic options. Also, the section solution is restricted to dropdown and radio button (multiple-choice or checkbox) fields. There is an add-on that will let you update values and create mapping from Sheets, but this is also limited to the field types mentioned above.
Just so you know
In Google Forms, you can customize the header image, theme/background color, and font. You can place the image of your school, organization, or business at the top of your form while adding your color scheme. The header image size has a 4:1 ratio. The default is 1600 by 400 pixels, but other sizes are also accepted, such as 800 by 200 pixels.
Google Forms add-ons
As we mentioned earlier, the core feature set of Google Forms is robust enough to get most data-collection jobs done. However, if you love using Google Forms for its practicality but still need more functionality or features, you should check out Google Forms add-ons.
Google Forms becomes even more flexible with add-ons that help you take your surveys or quizzes to the next level, connect to third-party platforms, and integrate your data across other G Suite productivity solutions (like Google Sheets).
If you’re used to working within the Google ecosystem, using add-ons will almost be like second nature.
For instance, math and science teachers love the Google Jamboard Chrome extension because it allows them to illustrate problems directly on a “whiteboard” surface during the lesson. Students can then share a jamboard during Google Meet classroom sessions.
Add-ons for Google Forms function in the same way, making your workflow more efficient.
Did you know?
You can create new form files from scratch by typing forms.new into a blank Chrome browser window. This applies to all of Google’s productivity solutions (Forms, Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.).
Below we’ve highlighted a few common needs Google Forms users tend to have that add-ons can help solve.
Our first scenario involves the common use case of quizzes or assignments in Google Forms. You‘ve crafted the perfect quiz but to add the finishing touch, you need to add a timer element so students can’t take forever to complete it.
There are several Google Forms add-ons that include a timer. Some also have camera recording or cheating prevention tools, and some limit the number of responses a given form can accept.
Attention: You’ve got mail
Another practical scenario involving Google Forms is notifying form owners, collaborators, and respondents once a form has been submitted. This add-on functionality lets you stay on top of assignments, purchase requests, time-off requests, incident reports, and more.
A number of Google Forms add-ons have complementary functionality, such as document conversion and attachment, form signature, mobile notifications, form field inclusion, and more.
For many of us, work and school have gone fully remote, which means we need the flexibility to use multiple (and mobile) devices to complete work we previously did in person or on a laptop.
You can use add-ons to build a custom app for the responses you collect in Google Forms. This kind of functionality will help you work on- and offline with ease and make it easier for your customers, vendors, or students to submit data.
Add-ons also allow you to generate a QR code of your form so your respondents can easily open the form with their mobile devices.
Part of the reason third-party add-ons are necessary is because Google Forms doesn’t organically offer the customization options other data-collection platforms do. JotForm, on the other hand, offers hundreds of useful, built-in widgets so there’s no need for external software to carry out the functions you need.
An upside of having proprietary widgets is seamless operation and data integrity, so you’re housing your data in one platform and minimizing potential connection errors or outages.
Within the JotForm app, it’s easy to add conditional logic to your forms. This helps you perform mathematical functions effortlessly. Plus, you can embed and display PDFs on your form, collect signatures, add a fillable spreadsheet, include timers, add orderable lists, and take advantage of additional functionality.
No matter your data-collection needs, JotForm widgets can take your workflow up a notch and help your forms stand apart from the rest.
Google Forms alternatives
The great thing about the online form industry, or any software solution really, is the wide variety of options you have to choose from. In addition to Google Forms, there are several solutions that offer complex attributes, robust integrations, and powerful data collection at scale.
The basics of online forms (drag-and-drop editing, a template library, basic field and question selections) are “table stakes” covered by most data-collection platforms. However, what should matter to you is how the features of your chosen form builder support your need to, say, collaborate with fellow stakeholders, collect order information, market leads at scale, or conduct field work without internet access.
Below are four Google Forms alternatives that cover the basics of online forms and have a suite of features that allow you to maximize your data-collection efforts.
As detailed earlier in this post, JotForm offers all the capabilities of Google Forms and then some. A direct alternative to Google Forms that’s trusted by millions of users worldwide, JotForm offers more features, templates, and integrations than any other online form builder.
Aside from its simplicity, what makes JotForm a compelling alternative is the collection of features it has for nearly every data-collection use case. Here are just a few.
Payment collection and industry-leading integrations
One thing that everyone from entrepreneurs to enterprise-level businesses loves about JotForm is the extensive collection of payment integrations. You can use one of more than 30 payment gateway integrations to collect payments through your online forms — including Stripe, PayPal, Square, and Chargify.
JotForm makes it easy to collect debit or credit card payments, ACH payments, e-check payments, and more.
The user-friendly platform makes it simple to add your gateway to your online order form, and to embed the form in your website or share it with a link to start receiving payments.
Yet payment collection is only one part of JotForm’s integration offering. There are more than 110 integrations, including CRMs (i.e., HubSpot, Salesforce, ActiveCampaign), cloud storage solutions (i.e., Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive), project management tools, and more to make your workflow more efficient. The best part? Whenever a user fills out your form, their information will automatically appear in your account (based on your settings).
Form templates and e-signatures
When you need a quick, premade template or just need to customize a field in an existing form, it helps to have a big template library. JotForm makes your life easy by offering the largest selection of free form templates. Categorized by type and industry, JotForm has more than 10,000 templates, so whatever your project, there’s likely a ready-made template for it.
Collecting e-signatures is a must for healthcare, HR, business, financial, and nonprofit industries. To add signatures to Google Forms, you need a third-party integration. But JotForm makes collecting legally binding signatures a snap. Just add one of the proprietary e-signature widgets to your form.
Supercharge your data-collection effort
Connecting your Google Forms data to other solutions in G Suite can aid in scheduling and collaboration. But if your job requires a higher level of productivity, look no further than JotForm. With JotForm, you can convert PDFs into online forms, build sophisticated reports from your collected data, and get responses through the mobile app both on and offline.
Plus, there’s JotForm Tables, a no-code productivity data-management app. JotForm Tables turns your spreadsheet into a collaborative database.
You can organize and manage data in one location while controlling what’s displayed in your table. Whenever your form receives a new submission, your table is automatically updated, making simultaneous work and collaboration simple.
2. Survey Monkey
As the name implies, SurveyMonkey is one of the world’s leading online survey and polling platforms. What’s great about SurveyMonkey is its ability to help you not only collect data but conduct market research through integrated products like Audience.
SurveyMonkey has 21 question types (vs Google Forms, which has 11), can track who responds to your surveys, and can convert your data into custom charts and reports to display your results.
Wufoo started in the mid-2000s as an intuitive way to build online forms. A good resource for small to midsize businesses, Wufoo is known for its ease of use, template selection, form customizations, and large number of third-party integrations.
Wufoo’s paid Pro plans support payment collection, which isn’t native to Google Forms. As part of the SurveyMonkey enterprise (Wufoo was acquired in 2011), it enjoys strong security as well as resource and customer support to ensure your data is handled with care.
Known for its minimalist, design-forward form creator, Typeform is a popular online survey tool that’s easy to use.
While the free plan limits you to 10 questions and 100 responses per month, Typeform offers multi-branching conditional logic (in other words, based on the responses given, the form can send users along different paths), which Google Forms currently does not.
Overall, Typeform is a serviceable survey tool with intuitive forms and compelling visual aesthetics.
Love Google? Combine the power of JotForm with G Suite
We get it, all of us have our personal brand allegiances. The good news is that software connectivity becomes more seamless every day, so you don’t have to stop using Google. JotForm’s powerful integrations with Google Drive, Google Sheets, and Google Calendar will help you collect better data, more easily, without disrupting your workflow.
Simplify your workflow
There are many useful online form builders out there. At the end of the day, what’s important is that your data-collection solution makes your workflow as seamless and productive as possible.
Google Forms is a popular solution, particularly with the education community, because of its viability, functional aesthetic, and ecosystem connectivity. But it’s not the only game in town. For those who may be looking for more benefits and functionality while enjoying the same ease of use, JotForm provides a great alternative.