How to Create Google Forms for All Your Business Needs

Adriana Neagu

Author: 

Ms. Neagu is a noted expert on data applications and XML technologies. Adriana was co-inventor of Microsoft Office InfoPath, and co-holds 4 InfoPath patents.

Google Forms provides an easy way to create and send a basic business form in minutes. This step-by-step guide takes you through the process, and the pros and cons of the app.
In this article:

Getting Started with Google Forms

Google Forms started as a feature of Sheets in 2008 and became its own entity in 2016. The app is a straightforward way to send out a survey, query your customers, or request RSVPs for a gathering. The app is also useful for polling, job applications, collecting lunch orders for conference attendees, and event registration. You can also use a Google form to create a store checkout page, but you’ll need to include a link to PayPal, Square, or some other service to collect payment.

The following step-by-step instructions will help you learn to create a form, add questions, change the color theme and the font, add a background image, add a section, view responses, and more.

First, here’s an overview of all the menu options:
untitled question

  1. The body of the question
  2. Change the question type
  3. Options for the question (these will change based on the question type)
  4. Form title and description
  5. Duplicate question
  6. Delete question
  7. Required indicator
  8. Question menu
  9. Add a question
  1. Add a title and description
  2. Add picture
  3. Add video
  4. Create new section
  5. Customize form theme
  6. Preview form
  7. Form settings
  8. Send the form
  9. Form menu
  10. View responses/forms tabs

How to Create a Google Form

To use Forms, you need to be signed into your Gmail or Google Drive account.

There are two ways to start, with a blank form or a template. These instructions use a blank form, but you can use the same steps if you start with a template.

  1. Open the Forms start page, and click the giant plus sign  for a blank form.

Google-forms-blank-start-page

You can also open your Google Drive page, click New, click More, click Google Forms, then click Blank form. You can also open a form from Google Sheets, but the default storage location for responses will be the sheet where you opened the form.

  1. Title Your Google Form

To add a title, click Untitled form, and enter a name. The form name appears in the browser tab and as the form title in the upper left corner of the web page (though it may take some time for the form to sync). The title is what responders will see when they open the form. You can also enter a description below the title.

Click on the white space under the form description to expand the window. The icons on the right side of the screen offer question options. On a mobile device, these icons will be at the bottom.

Google forms menu annotated

How to Add Questions to a Google Form

  1. Add a question

Click Untitled Questions and enter the text for what you want to ask. To make the question required, click the Required slider button.  You can duplicate the question by clicking the multiple page icon. Delete the question, by clicking the trashcan icon.

Google forms question section annotated

  1. Add an image to the question

Click the image icon in the right panel bar (or the image icon that appears next to the inserted text) to add an image to the question. This option works well for questions like “What’s the building shown in the picture?” You can either drag an image to the upload space, upload it manually, take a snapshot, add a URL, or search your albums, Google drive, or perform a general search.

Google forms question add image

  1. Add more questions

Click the plus icon on the right panel bar to add additional questions.

If your question requires response options, click Option 1 and enter the first option. Hitting enter on the keyboard adds the next option. If you have a long list (like state names or ice cream flavors), click the first option and paste the list; the form will create individual options for each entry.

  1. Add images for each response

You can add images to each response option for the multiple choice and checkbox question types. Click the image icon and add an image. This works well for questions like “Which of these products don’t belong?”

Google forms question add image or delete response option

Delete or edit a response option

To delete a response option, click the X to the right of it. Edit the question or option text by clicking on it and making changes.

Working with Google Form Responses

The form will sometimes provide suggested response options based on the question’s text. Enter “Are you” and it’ll suggest genders. Try “size” and it’ll list S, M, L, XL. “Do you like” will offer yes, no, and maybe.

  1. Ignore the suggestions

Do nothing. The form will not add a response unless you click on it.

  1. Add response suggestions

Click ADD ALL to accept all the suggestions. To select a specific suggestion, click on the response you want to add.

Google forms question suggested response options

  1. Add an option for responders to enter their own text

On multiple choice and checkbox question types, there’s the option of adding an Other response that responders can select and fill in a blank (the image below is the responder view). Click ADD OTHER in the answer area below the question.

Google forms question other option fill in the blank

  1. Randomize answer options

If a question has multiple response options (like dropdown or checkbox), you can randomize the order of the options. Click the question menu icon (next to the Required slide), then click Shuffle option order.

Google forms question shuffle option order

The form will try to guess what type of question you might want based on what you enter. Click the down arrow next to the question to manually change the question type.

Google forms question types

How to Add Sections to a Google Form

Responders will see each section as a separate page. Use sections to guide different responders through different paths based on their responses.

  1. Add a section

Click the horizonal line icon at the bottom of the right menu panel to add a new section to the form.

Google forms new section

  1. Manage the new section

Click the section menu icon in the top right corner of the section to delete, duplicate, or move a section, or merge it with the section above. Click on the action you want.

Google forms section options

  1. Setup how the responder will navigate through the sections

Beneath each section, the form offers navigation options for what happens when a responder comes to the end of that section. Click the drop-down arrow next to “Continue to the next section” to access the options.

Google forms section navigation options
How to Shuffle Questions on a Google Form

When the questions are presented to the responders, the default is to have them shown in the order that they were created, and any response options will be shown the order they were added.

To move questions around:

  1. Grab the six dots on top of a question, and drag it to the new location.
  2. You can drag a question within a section or between sections.

To present the questions in random order:

  1. Click the settings icon, click Presentation, then select the Shuffle question type option.
  2. If you’ve set up sections, this will only shuffle questions within each section. There’s no way to have questions shuffle in one section but not in another.

Google forms shuffle question order

How to Customize a Google Form

Click on the palette icon to change the appearance of the form. The options available are:

  • Change the color theme (and add a new theme)
  • Change the background color
  • Add a header image
  • Change the font
    • When you change the font, it doesn’t affect all text on the screen, so the form may be hard to read.

Google forms change appearance

How to Preview the Google Form

After you’ve created the form, you can click on the eye icon near the top of the form to see a preview of the form recipients will see.  The preview will open in a new tab.

Google forms preview icon

  1. Answer the questions and submit the form to make sure it works as expected. For example, if you’ve set up questions that move to different sections based on the response, make sure you verify it works properly.

Google forms preview page

  1. You can either close the new tab or click the edit button to go back to the form creation page.
  2. The forms you submit while previewing will be saved in the responses section. You’ll want to delete those responses before sending the form out. On the editing page, click Responses, click the menu icon, select Delete all responses, then click OK.

Google Forms Advanced Features

There are some features that Google includes to help collect the data you want. Some questions will trigger response validations. If your question includes “email” or “e-mail,” the form asks if you want to collect the email addresses of respondents and limit responses to one per person. If you start with “How many,” the form assumes you want the answer to be a number.

You can change your answer by clicking change settings.

google forms response validation change settings

The short answer and paragraph question types allow the responses to be checked against parameters chosen by the creator before the responder can submit the form. When the response doesn’t fit the parameters, an error message is displayed. The default error messages can be replaced with a custom error message if desired.

  1. To change response validation options, click the question menu icon, then click Response validation.
  2. If the Response Validation doesn’t appear, the question type doesn’t support it. Change the question type to one that does (short answer, paragraph, or checkboxes).
  3. Choose the response validation type desired. The options are listed below.

Google forms response validation menu

Google forms response validation options

Number

The validation options for number are:

  • Greater than
  • Greater than or equal to
  • Less than, less than or equal to
  • Equal to
  • Not equal to
  • Between
  • Not between
  • Is number (i.e. it can’t be a non-numeric character)
  • Whole number

Text

The validation options for text are:

  • Contains
  • Doesn’t contain
  • Email address
  • URL

Length

The validation options for the length of a field are:

  • Maximum character count
  • Minimum character count

Checkboxes

The form allows the creator to determine how may boxes have to be checked. The options available are:

  • Select at least
  • Select at most
  • Select exactly

Regular Expression

This is a feature for advanced form creators. Regular expressions are text strings used to look for pattern matching, counting characters, and more, using a code. For example, a regular expression can look for the pattern of Canadian postal codes (e.g. Y1A 1A4 or T1W 2G9), count the amount of entered words, look for email addresses from specific providers (e.g. rocketmail.com or yahoo.com), or check for variations in a word’s spelling. Here’s some basic information on regular expressions and some useful expressions for Google Forms; if you’re feeling adventurous, here’s some in-depth information.

The validation options for a regular expression are:

  • Contain
  • Doesn’t contain
  • Match
  • Doesn’t match

Google Form Question Types and When to Use Them

Google Forms has eleven types of questions. They’re each useful for gathering different types of responses. All question types can have a description. You can mark most of them as required except Multiple choice grid and Checkbox grid, but selecting the require a response in each row option, will make those two question types required. Here’s an overview of question types:

Google forms question types

Short Answer

Best for: Shorter freeform answers. Even though it’s called “short,” responders can enter as much text as they want unless the creator restricts the length.

Options: Validate response: Number, text, length, regular expression

Google forms question types short answer

Paragraph

Best for: Longer freeform answers.

Options: Validate response: Number, text, length, regular expression

Google forms question types paragraph

Multiple Choice

Best for: Choosing one response from a short pre-selected list.

Options: Go to a section based on response, shuffle response order.

Note: If the list has more than four answers, consider using the dropdown option instead.

Google forms question types multiple choice

Checkboxes

Best for: Choosing multiple responses from a list of pre-selected answers.

Options: Go to a section based on response, shuffle response order.

Google forms question types checkboxes

Dropdown

Best for: Choosing one response from a list of pre-selected answers.

Options: Go to a section based on response, shuffle response order.

Google forms question types dropdown

File Upload

Best for: Attaching a document, spreadsheet, or other file.

Options: Restrict file type, restrict maximum number of files, restrict maximum file size.

Note: You can also restrict the maximum size of all files uploaded by all responders. Once the level is reached, no more file uploads are allowed. If you use this question type, you can’t embed the form in a web page.

Google forms question types file upload

Linear Scale

Best for: Rating an item on a scale.

Options: Low end of the scale can be 0 or 1, high end of the scale can be between 2 and 10, add labels to the high and low end of the scale.

Google forms question types linear scale

Multiple Choice Grid

Best for: Comparing multiple items on a scale, such as the usefulness of features or opinions on a list of possibilities. Each row can only have a maximum of one option selected.

Options: Require a response in each row, limit to one response per column, shuffle row order.

Note: Choosing to require a response in each row and limiting to one response per column creates a way to rank order a set of items. Additionally, the rows and columns that the responder sees are displayed as columns to the creator, so use the preview feature to ensure the final layout appears the way you want.

Google forms question types multiple choice grid

Checkbox Grid

Best for: Comparing multiple items on the same scale, such as the usefulness of features or opinions for a list of possibilities. Each row can have more than one option selected.

Options: Require a response in each row, limit to one response per column, shuffle row order.

Note: Choosing to require a response in each row and limiting to on response per column creates a way to rank order a set of items. Be aware that the rows and columns the responders see appear as columns to the creator, so use the preview feature to make sure the final layout meets expectations.

Google forms question types checkbox grid

Date

Best for: Requesting date information, such as the best time for a meeting.

Options: Include year, include time.

Google forms question types date

Time

Best for: Requesting time information, such as when an event happened or the expected duration of a task.

Options: Time, duration.

Google forms question types time

Overview of Google Form Settings

Beyond those mentioned above, there are three form settings categories. These are General, Presentation, and Quizzes. More on quizzes later in this article.

General Settings

  • Collect email addresses of the responders
  • Send a receipt to each responder once they’ve submitted (with the option of allowing the responder to opt out)
  • Limit the responses to one per person (validated via email addresses)
  • Allow responders to reopen the form and edit their responses
  • See a summary of all responses

Presentation Settings

  • Show a progress bar. This option is good for forms that have multiple sections since it informs responders of how much of the form is left to complete.
  • Shuffle the order of questions (as mentioned above)
  • Give the responders a link to submit another response
  • Change the text of the message responders see once they submit the form

You can change a few form settings to become the default for any future form. These settings include collecting email addresses, making questions required, and the point value for quiz questions. Change these options by clicking on the form menu icon, clicking Preferences, and making the desired changes.

Creating a Quiz in Google Forms

Marketers often create quizzes to engage people in a specific topic or to learn more about their customers. Creating a quiz is easy in Google Forms. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Open a new or existing quiz.
    Click on the settings icon, click Quizzes, click Make this a quiz.

Google forms create a quiz

  1. Decide if responders will see their grade.
    If you select Immediately after each submission, a button on the responders’ confirmation page will take them to the page with their grade. When responders see their score, you can also display the questions they missed with their correct answers and point values of the questions. Make these selections and click Save.

Google forms quiz score options

  1. Format the answer key.
    Click on the Answer Key link that appears at the bottom of each question. The answer key format varies by question type.

Google forms quiz answer key

  1. Select or enter the correct answer for the question (you can have multiple correct answers for each question).
  2. Add an optional point value for the question.
  3. Chose the feedback message text for correct answers (e.g. Good job!) or incorrect answers (e.g. You chose poorly). Feedback can also be a video or a link. For example, add a link to a website that has the correct answer if the submitted answer was wrong, or a celebratory GIF if it was right. Responders will see these when they view their quiz results.

Google forms quiz answer key options

  1. Click Edit Question to return to the question.

How to Send a Google Form

Once your form (or quiz) is complete, there are a few ways to share it. Click the Send button, and choose one of the following:

  1. Email the Google Form
  • Enter the email address(es) of your target audience. You can also paste a list of addresses (separated by returns, comma, spaces, or semicolons).
  • Add a subject and customize the message.
  • Select Include form in email if you want the form to appear in the message; recipients can fill it out in their email client. If their email client or provider doesn’t support this, there will still be a link to the form.

Google forms send email

  1. Send a link to the form
  • Click Copy then paste the link wherever you want.
  • Check the Shorten URL first if you want a mobile/Twitter friendly URL.

Google forms send link

  1. Embed the form on website
  • Click Copy and paste into your HTML code.
  • You can adjust the size of the window where the form will appear on the web page.

Google forms send embed

  1. Share the form on Facebook or Twitter
  • Click the social media icon desired.
  • You’ll have to log into the service you selected (if you aren’t already).
  1. Print or Save the form as a PDF
  • You can also print a form or save it as a PDF via the print dialog.
  • These options require you to manually enter the data you receive by filling out the form for each received response. Read more here.

Can Google Forms be Shared?

You can add collaborators who will be able to edit the form and view responses. Click the form menu, click Add collaborators, and fill out the information requested or share it using the social media buttons.

Google forms share menu

Google forms share window

Can Google Forms Be Printed?

Yes. You can print the forms via your browser’s print command, or save them as a PDF which you can also print.

You can also print the responses. Click on the responses tab, then the responses menu, and click Print all responses. It doesn’t matter if you are looking at the summary, question, or individual view.

Can Google Forms be Edited?

You can edit a form at any time via the same steps used to create a form. If the form has already received responses, it may affect the data and which responses are visible.

  • If you delete a response option, it’ll still show up in the summary, but it won’t appear when looking at the induvial responses, even though a responder submitted it.
  • If you change the question type to a similar one (e.g. multiple choice to dropdown) the responses will be retained in the Responses tab. If you change to a different type (e.g. paragraph to checkbox), they won’t appear. You can recover sponsors by clicking on the Responses tab, clicking the responses menu icon, and then clicking Select response destination and  Create a new spreadsheet is the default, which is what you want. Click Create and all recorded responses will be visible in that sheet.

How to See and Manage Google Form Responses

Once you send out the form, you’ll want to see the responses. Click on the Responses tab. The number next to it shows how many responses you’ve received. You can also click the Accepting responses slider (don’t worry, it’s reversible).

Google forms responses

The default is to store responses in the Forms app, and includes some charts and graphs (which change based on the question type) that can help interpret the data.

If you’d rather see responses in a spreadsheet, there are two options. The first option will sync as responses come in, the second won’t.

  1. To view responses in a Google Sheet, click the Select Response Destination iconand then select Create a new sheet or Select existing spreadsheet.

Google forms select response destinations sheet

2, You can save responses as a .csv file. Click the Responses tab, click Form menu icon, then click Download responses.

Google forms select response destinations csv

Quiz Responses

Like a non-quiz form, you can view responses by clicking on the responses tab.

  1. The summary response tab shows high-level results and frequently missed questions.

Google forms quiz score options

  1. If you selected to send the results after review, there will be a section for the creator to send the results. You can send results to all responders or select them individually.

Google forms quiz release scores

  1. Use the question tab to drill down on each question. Navigate through each question via the navigational tools in the upper right area of the screen.

Google forms quiz questions tab

  1. The individual tab displays the result for each responder. Use the navigational tools in the upper right corner to navigate through each responder’s results.

Google forms quiz individual tab

Using Google Forms to Gather Data

Once you create a Google form, you can collect the data as a CSV, view it in Google Docs or Google Sheets. You can paste the results into Google Slides or a PowerPoint presentation to defend a proposal, import them into a database and analyze voting trends, or even decide what dishes to bring to a picnic.

You can integrate the form with popular third-party software solutions including:

  • MailChimp
  • SalesForce
  • Trello
  • Slack

Are Google Forms Secure?

Google is strict about security, but there are always risks for both form creators and for responders.

Form Creators

If the questions being asked are sensitive, be thoughtful when sending it out for responses. The default sharing option is that only people that have the link can see it, but make sure you (or a collaborator) hasn’t changed that. There are a couple more advanced options for restricting who can see a form:

  • Use the response validation feature to restrict who can access the form by either asking for an email address, or by requiring a password you’ve provided.
  • If your company uses Google Apps for Work, you can restrict access to people inside your organization.

When sharing a form with collaborators, also be aware of the sharing options. The middle setting (anyone with the link) may seem somewhat secure because the form won’t be indexed on search engines, but once the link is shared, anyone who has it can forward it, and those people can also access the form (and forward the link to others, and so on).

Regardless of the security setting, you use the embed code (which only form creators can get) to embed the form on a website, and again that means anyone can access the form.

Responders

  • The data provided is only as secure as the form creator’s password and security procedures.
  • Form creators can set the form so that all other responders can see text responses, so be aware that might be possible when completing the form.
  • Google forms have add-ons that form creators can use, and those add-ons may have access to the responses as well.
  • Form creators can share the form with collaborators, who can also see the responses.

Can Google Forms Be Hacked?

Just like any web-based system, bad actors can sometimes find their way to Google Forms. So, use care with your login credentials.

Google Forms Private?

You can opt to make your Google form private, but keep in mind the security concerns mentioned above.

Are Google Forms Public?

The sharing options allows you to post forms on the web, which search engines will catalogue.

Can Google Forms Be Used Offline?

If a respondent is not connected to the web, they can’t get to Google’s site. There are work-arounds (such as printing the form and sending it) but creators have to be prepared in advance for non-connected respondents. This scenario requires double data entry and causes a delay in collection time (i.e. the responder fills out a paper form, mails it back, then the form creator has to re-enter all the data from the paper form).

Google Forms Tricks and Tips

Here are some suggestions that will make using google forms more powerful easier, or maybe just more fun. Google also offers a video tour.

Basic Operations

  • An array of six small dots is a handle you can click or tap to drag that item to a different position on the screen.
  • The icon that resembles two arrowheads pointing at each other hides responses while you are creating or editing a form. This is handy if you have a lot of questions.
  • Like all Google documents, forms are automatically saved. However, you’ll have to save any settings changes you make to apply them.
  • You can quickly navigate to Forms from any of the google apps (Docs, Sheets, or Slides). Just click on the hamburger menu and select Forms. If you open a form from an open Sheet, the responses will be saved in that sheet by default.
  • After you enter a response option, clicking enter will move you to the next response option.
  • If you accidently add a question or other element, the undo command will remove it.
  • Starting with a template, then editing it, may save time over using a blank form.
  • If a question fits better in a different section, you can dragged it to that section.
  • Don’t use the multiple choice question type if you have more than 5 responses. Instead, consider the drop-down menu to ensure everything will fit on the responder’s screen.
  • All the parts of Google Suite have their own color scheme. Docs are blue, Slides are Yellow, Sheets are green, and Forms are purple.

Advanced Operations

  • Most items (like questions) have a description field, but it’s hidden by default. To see it, click on the menu icon for that item then under Show, click description. The description field won’t be affected if you change the font. You can add URLs to description fields.
  • When setting up a time or date question, the time zone will default to the form creator’s time zone.
  • If you’re setting up section jumps based on how a responder answers a question, spend some time plotting who should see which sections. Also, creating all sections before creating the jumps will make the process less complicated.
  • If you have a lot of forms, you can create folders to organize them on the Forms main page. Just click the folder icon below the templates.
  • Forms saves any responses recorded in preview mode. If you entered any data while testing your form, delete those responses before sending it. Click the Responses tab, click the form menu icon, then click Delete all responses.
  • If you have a question that uses the form upload option, then you can’t embed the form on a website.
  • You can’t use Forms to collect money.
  • If you override a default response validation error message, ensure that your message gives responders enough information to know what they need to change.
  • You can get notified whenever anyone fills out the form. Click on Reponses, then click the menu icon just below it (three vertical dots), then click Get email notifications for new responses.

Google Forms FAQs

Are Google Forms HIPPA compliant?

No. For more information in HIPPA security, read this article.

Can Google Forms be merged?

No, but you can add the link for one form at the end of another, then save both form’s results in the same spreadsheet (though the data for each form will appear on different tabs). This video explains the process.

Are Google Forms saved?

Google Forms are saved in your Google drive, which is a cloud storage system.

Are the add-ons?

Google Forms add-ons are extensions created by third parties that customize the operation of a form. They can be a simple template, send customized notifications via different methods, save contacts or responses to CRM systems, or code that changes a form’s response options based on answers that have already been submitted.

To see available add-ons, click the app menu, click Add-ons. Once you add an add-on, a new add-on puzzle piece icon will appear to the left of the palette. To uninstall an add-on, open the add-on menu, find it on the sheet, right-click on it, and click Remove. See a couple lists of add-ons here and here. And if you’re the coding type, you can create your own add-ons via Google’s script editor which is in the same menu as the add-ons.

Google forms add ons

Why Formotus Is a Robust Alternative to Google Forms

Google Forms isn’t perfect, and it lacks some of the key features that businesses need. The design options are limited, you can’t add welcome or thank-you screens, there are minimal built-in options for managing form responses, and there’s no offline option. Looking for a solution that does all that and more? Consider using Formotus to create mobile forms that are easier to make, more secure, offer far more flexibility, and can be used offline.

The Formotus drag-and-drop form creator makes creating forms a breeze and is optimized for mobile devices with an intuitive UI that’s easy-to-use on touchscreens. You can even use Formotus to seamlessly convert InfoPath forms for use on mobile devices. When you create a form using Formotus, you can rest assured they are secure since your company’s data never passes through our servers and you have complete control over who can access a form.

Signup for a free trial to learn more about our advanced drag-and-drop mobile form design tools, our flexible pricing options, and how we support InfoPath forms.

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