At a previous employment I was the Director of Technology where I saw a diverse amount of support and application related questions. One issue which never seemed to go away were the constant requests for various data collection and management applications. The most common requests were web based applications for simple RSVP, or survey type data. There was nothing technically difficult about the process, but it did require a substantial amount of focused time to complete some jobs.
I remember thinking how much I’d like to someday develop the means to create a way for people to create a webform and dynamically the database backend to collect the information by themselves. As usual, Google beat me to it. Using Google Docs, a free service, anyone can create basic forms and collect information on a web page run directly from the Google Docs framework.
Here is a generic step by step procedure for creating a data collection form.
Step 1 – Plan what information you will collect.Identify each question and the limits of each response.Sketch it out on paper. For this demo I will create a basic form and give you the link to record your response.
Question 1 – Your name (reply = text)
Question 2 – Your email (reply = text)
Question 3 – Rate this (reply = scale)
Question 4 – Your comments (reply = paragraph text)
Question 5 – Difficulty (reply = multiple choice)
Decide which questions are required. Think about this carefully, not all questions apply but you want to limit too many blanks in your collected data.
Step 2 – Logon to your Google account and find your Google Docs section. (hint: look under More in the title bar at the top of the page.
Click on Create New -> Form
Step 3 – Build your formClick in the field to give your form a title. We will use Reader Responses.The next section will allow you to provide a brief description or instruction.Include the Question Title for each question. The question type is the format or restriction of the reply you designated in your planning stages. the help section provides information for this specific question. We will make the response for this question required and click the Done button. Repeat for each question.
Notice the functions that come up for the different question types. Experiment with these to fine tune your respondants responses. To add a new question click on the Add Item button in the top left corner of the page.
Step 4 – Save and publish your form.The Save button is located in the top right of the page.
Copy the link at the bottom of this page. This is the location you will share (or shorten) to allow others to respond to questions on your form. (See URL shortener hint below.)
Step 5 – Set the permissionsReturn to your documents in Google docs. (Be sure you are looking at All Items and refresh the screen)Select the check box for the form you just created and click the share button above. Choose share settings and click the Change hyperlink. To make this form (not the collected data)public to anyone on the internet select the applicable visibility options. Typically you will want to avoid requiring people to logon with a username and password to access your form.
Step 6 – Review the collected informationAfter the first response has been received, the data is collected in a Google Spreadsheet. This spreadsheet can be viewed in Google docs or exported as a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet for further manipulation.
URL SHORTENER HINT: Take the long address (URL) and run this through a URL shortener like http://bit.ly. Copy and paste this URL in a URL shortener. The long URL will be shortened and made more manageable to send by email or include in other documentation. Copy and share the shortened link.
Our form is located at http://bit.ly/bWlmqz
This completes the overview of creating a form to collect information on a web form using Google Docs.
Please take a minute to use the form created in this tutorial for providing your feedback. Click here to access the form.