Ranking questions are a great way to gauge audience preferences—whether you're trying to decide on the best types of pasta or the weakest parts of your customer experience.
If you're just starting to dabble in surveys and quizzes for your business, the chances are Google Forms will be your first port of call. It's free, and like most Google apps, works well enough.
Except when it comes to adding ranking questions. With no built-in rank question type, you'll have to design a DIY solution to get the job done. (That's what we're here to help you do!)
In this article, we'll cover what a ranking question is, how you can make a ranking question in Google Forms, and go through some notable shortcomings. Let's get to it.
A ranking question asks respondents to order a list of items from most preferred to least preferred on a preset scale. They're particularly helpful for questions relating to preferences and habits and are a great source of quantitative data.
The most common example of a ranking question is when people are asked to rank items in order of importance, with 1 being 'most important' and 10 being 'least important', but they're useful across a range of industries and use cases.
The very first step is to create a new form. You'll need a Google account to do this, but if you use Gmail, Docs, or Google Drive (who doesn't?), you'll already have one.
Done? Let's get right into it.
When you open a Google Form there'll be title and question fields waiting to be labelled. Type the title of your form, as well as the question that you want to ask.
In this case, we want to get to the bottom of which Harry Potter movie is the best, so we've labelled our form, description, and question accordingly.
Next, click on the toolbar beside the form and add a Multiple-choice grid question type. Once you've done this, rows and columns will appear below your question (this is where you'll add the options for your ranking questions).
In our form, we added each 'Harry Potter' film as a row, and 1-8 as rankings in the columns. You could also use descriptors like "least favourite" and "most favourite" in place of numbers.
Once the answer options and ranking choices are filled out, you'll need to make sure the form settings support the makeshift ranking question.
The first step is to turn on the Require a response in each row toggle at the bottom of the question field. This makes sure respondents can't miss items, and that each item will be attributed a ranking.
In addition to making sure every row gets a ranking, you need to ensure every ranking can only be paired with a single answer (otherwise respondents could attribute multiple items to a specific ranking).
To do this, click the three dots on the bottom right of the question, and select Limit to one response per column. Now, if someone tries to use the same ranking for more than one question, they'll get an error message.
💡 Tip: From the same dropdown menu, you can also choose to shuffle the row order, which randomizes the order in which respondents are shown the answer options. We opted to keep the films in release order, but this can be a good way to cut down on survey bias for select questions.
That's it—you've successfully created a ranking question in Google Forms. Before you send it out into the world, click the Eye icon to preview the survey and check everything works correctly.
If you've managed to jump through all the right hoops, your ranking question will look similar to the screenshot below. (Note: if you have more than eight rankings to choose from, respondents will have to scroll to the left to select them all.)
If you've stuck with us so far you might have noticed that adding ranking questions in Google Forms isn't exactly the smoothest process in the world. Here are a few of the challenges you'll run into:
Because there's no native ranking question in Google Forms, the setup process is needlessly complex. And if you want to make your question conditional, you're in for even more of a headache.
You've got to tweak multiple settings for the form to work in the first place, and it only takes a minor mistake for the whole thing to unravel. For what should be a simple process, creating a ranking question in Google Forms takes a seriously long time.
The makeshift nature of the Google Forms ranking question means it's difficult to glean helpful data from the results.
While you can view the results easily enough, the way it's presented takes some mental gymnastics, and manual busywork, to actually analyse.
In our form, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone received quite a few votes (check out the pink bar soaring above the rest). At first glance, you might think it's a clear winner, but this actually represents votes for 6th ranking.
For an inexplicable reason, there's no clear grouping of the ranked items. It's up to you to export the data to Google Sheets and manually crunch the numbers to find the final rankings. 🤓
Even with a modest number of responses, this results in a monster spreadsheet that'd make even data entry veterans second guess this option.
A major drawback of Google Forms is that they look like every other Google Form ever created. The font, question style, coloured backgrounds, and success page all scream "I made this in Google Forms!".
There are only 4 font styles and a handful of background themes and colours. Add that to the fact your ranking question is already patch-worked together like a Mr. Potato Head doll, and what you get is less than ideal.
Of course, Google Forms is a free tool, so limited features are to be expected. But, if you're sending surveys to your clients, or customers, on behalf of your business, it's not exactly the most professional look.
It'll surprise absolutely no one that Google Forms integrates nicely with Sheets, and the rest of the G-Suite. But that's about it.
Want to send responses to your CRM? Auto-populate a Notion database? Set up automated marketing emails based on whether someone prefers The Chamber of Secrets or The Half-Blood Prince?
There's simply no way to do that natively with Google Forms. While there are some add-ons you can download, these are limited and run by (often unreliable) third-party developers.
You'll be stuck doing the busy work yourself.
Ideally, ranking questions should use a drag-and-drop interface, to make it easy for respondents to move selections into order in an interactive way.
Obviously, Google Forms doesn't support this functionality. With the makeshift rows and columns, it's up to respondents to remember which boxes they have or haven't checked (and in what order they've ranked the items).
On top of that, the page itself is plain unintuitive. It looks more like a high school exam than a professional survey, and on first glance respondents likely won't even recognise it as a ranking question.
Want to set up a ranking question in a few clicks? To build surveys that look professional (not like Frankenstein's monster), are branded to your business, and are up and running in a few minutes with no extra work arounds?
Paperform's got you covered.
With our free-text editor, there is no convoluted setup. All you've got to do is type '/rank'. No need to manage rows or columns, toggle random settings, or patchwork a solution out of other question types.
It couldn't be easier: just select the Rank question field and enter your options. Two steps and you're done, like an old-style waltz.
Once your form is live, respondents can drag items into their preferred order using the interactive list. It makes for a far superior experience than clicking on an array of radio buttons.
But that's not the fun part. Unlike Google Forms, Paperform lets your imagination run wild with limitless customisation options. By tweaking colours, fonts, images, and even UI elements, you can build a form unique to you.
You can even insert GIFs from GIPHY and images from Unsplash with our slash command shortcuts, or even edit images with our native image editor.
Check out our survey once we've sprinkled some Paperform magic onto it:
Not bad, right? And to be honest, that's just scratching the surface of what you can do with Paperform. Here are a few more features you won't find in Google Forms:
Like putting pineapple on pizza, just because you can add a ranking question to a Google Form, doesn't mean you should. 🍕
Ranking questions shouldn't require additional setup or following a tutorial to get working. No matter how simple (or free!) Google Forms is, it's just not worth the hassle.
You need a form building tool that looks after the complex stuff for you. That you can customise to your needs. That you can set and forget, so you can concentrate on the important parts of your business and life.
So why not get the full package with Paperform? Don't just take our word for it. Sign up for our free 14-day trial and get started today—no credit card required.
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