How to Use Google Forms

/ 14 min read
Kat Boogaard

Forms are one of the easiest and most efficient ways to collect feedback and information from other people—whether you’re expecting a few responses or thousands of them.

For those who are making their first foray into form-building, Google Forms is often their default choice. It does have some limitations (particularly when it comes to making more advanced or professional forms). Still, it’s a solid beginner form builder that makes it easy to pull something together without too much cursing at your computer screen.

Wondering how to use Google Forms yourself? We’re breaking down all of the basics in this complete guide.

Getting started with Google Forms: a quick overview

Google Forms is a free web-based tool that allows users to create surveys, quizzes, and other types of forms. It’s part of the Google Workspace suite of productivity tools, which includes other beloved favourites like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides.

To start your very first Google Form, head to docs.google.com/forms and select the type of form you want to create. There are plenty of different form templates to choose from or you can select a blank form to start completely from scratch.

Once you pick your starting point, you’ll build the rest of your form. It’s pretty intuitive—you don’t need to be a developer or designer. You’ll name your form, select different question types (anything from multiple choice or short answers to checkboxes or dropdowns), and type in your information.

You can also drag and drop your questions to reorder them around and customise your colours to match your brand. You can end up with a fully functional form in only a few minutes.

Understanding the Google Forms field types

Not all questions are created equal. Fortunately, Google Forms offers plenty of different field types—think of these like your form question styles—to help you get to the heart of the information you need.

While Google Forms doesn’t have all of the flexibility and options that more advanced form builders have (for example, it’s missing a ranking question type), it does cover the basics including short answer, paragraph, multiple choice, checkboxes, dropdown, linear scale, grid, date, and time.

Answer options available in Google Forms(Image Source: Google Forms)

Let’s take a look at each of these field types (and when you’ll want to use them) below.

1. Short answer

As the most basic field type in Google Forms, this short answer field allows respondents to type in a single line of text to answer your question.

Use it for: Open-ended questions that require only a few words in a response.

Example question: What is your email address?

2. Paragraph

This field is another text-based field, but it allows respondents to use multiple lines of text—rather than being limited by a few short words.

Use it for: Open-ended questions that require longer responses.

Example question: How can we improve our customer service?

3. Multiple choice

Sharpen your number two pencils—the multiple choice field type is exactly what you’re picturing from your standardized testing days in school. With this style, respondents choose one answer from a predetermined list of options that you create.

Use it for: Questions that have a limited number of possible answers.

Example question: How should we contact you?

  • Phone call
  • Email
  • Text message

4. Checkboxes

This one is a lot like the multiple choice field, but it allows respondents to select multiple answers (and not just one) from the predetermined options you create.

Use it for: Questions that have multiple right answers or when respondents need to select all that apply.

Example question: What communication would you like to receive from us moving forward? Select all that apply:

  • New product announcements
  • Discounts and promotions
  • Company newsletter
  • Other marketing emails

5. Dropdown

The dropdown question field is another way that you can let respondents select from a set of predetermined answers. Rather than showing all of the options in a list, it displays them as a dropdown menu.

Use it for: Multiple choice questions that have a lot of possible answers, as dropdowns help save space and reduce visual clutter.

Example question: What is your budget?

A sample dropdown question made with Google Forms(Image Source: Google Forms)

6. Linear scale

The scale field allows respondents to rate something on a scale from 1 to 10 (or any other range that you choose).

Use it for: Questions that are designed to measure feelings, attitudes, and opinions.

Example question: How would you rate our customer service on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 10 (excellent)?

7. Grid

Google Forms has two different types of grid field types: multiple choice grid and checkbox grid. They’re very similar. The only difference is that the multiple choice grid limits respondents to only one answer per row, while the checkbox grid allows respondents to select more than one choice per row.

Use it for: Questions that compare multiple items or for questions that ask respondents to rate multiple things on the same scale.

Example question: How do you feel about the following statements about our customer service?

A multiple choice grid question made with Google Forms(Image Source: Google Forms)

8. Date and time

Finally, the date or time fields allow you to quickly collect a basic piece of information—like someone’s birthdate. With the date field, respondents will see a calendar they can use to select a specific date. The time field allows them to manually enter a time and select “AM” or “PM” from a dropdown menu.

Use it for: Questions that gather information about events, scheduling appointments, deadlines, and other time-based situations.

Example question: What's your birthdate?

That’s the gist of all of the different field types in Google Forms. You can take things even further by setting rules for your form. For example, you might set a maximum character count for your short answer responses or a maximum number of checkboxes somebody can select.

Organising your Google Forms with sections and conditional logic

Creating your first Google Form can be as simple as naming your form and adding some questions. But, when 81% of people admit that they’ve abandoned an online form after they begin to fill it out, your user experience matters.

That’s why Google Forms has two other features to help simplify your forms for your users: sections and conditional logic.

What are sections?

Sections organise your form into multiple pages. It’s a feature you won’t need to use if your form is short and sweet, but it certainly comes in handy if you’re asking a lot of questions—which can be overwhelming all on one page (hello, endless scrolling).

To add a new section to your form, click the two stacked rectangles at the bottom of the toolbar. Then you can jot down a section title and description (both totally optional) and add your questions.

Every section appears as a separate page in your finished form. When respondents get to the end of a section, they’ll see a “next” button that they can click to get to the next page.

What is conditional logic?

If you want people to complete your form (and not think the process is totally painful), conditional logic is a huge help. With conditional logic, the rest of your form adapts based on the response a user gives.

Think about it like this: If somebody answers “no” when asked if they’re attending your team outing, then you don’t need to ask them questions about their food restrictions or preferred activity. Conditional logic means they wouldn’t even be shown those questions—they’d skip them entirely.

If you want to add conditional logic to a Google Forms question, click the three-dot menu at the bottom of the question field and click “Go to section based on answer.” This opens up display logic for each answer option listed in your question, so you can set destinations based on the answers.

Customising the design of your Google Forms

You want your form to work well, but you also want it to look great. Google Forms offers some limited options to customise the appearance of your form.

To do so, click the paint palette that appears near the top of the page when editing your form. That opens up a sidebar where you can set your text style, choose a background colour, and add a custom header image.

Limited customisation options available in Google Forms(Image Source: Google Forms)

Those straightforward options are certainly enough to cover the basics. But if you’re looking for a highly-designed and customisable form, Google Forms might be a bit too elementary to meet your needs.

With a more advanced form builder like Paperform, you can personalise even the tiniest details. You can tweak your colours, select from dozens of fonts, and customise your buttons and other UI elements.

You can even insert images, edit them, and embed videos anywhere on the page. Paperform integrates with Unsplash and GIPHY, so you can search and add visuals without switching tabs or leaving your current tab.

How to build a survey in Google Forms

We’ve covered all of the building blocks of Google Forms—the general overview, the field types, and the design options. With that groundwork in place, let’s outline a few simple steps to get up and running with your first survey:

  1. Go to docs.google.com/forms and sign in to your Google account (if you aren’t already signed in).
  2. Choose a form template or click on the "+" button to start with a blank form.
  3. Give your form a title by clicking on the "Untitled form" text at the top of the page and typing in your title. You can also add a brief description of your form in the “Form description” field.
  4. Add a question. Your form should open up with one existing question field. In this box, you can choose your question type and enter in your question and possible answers. You can also add additional options, such as making a question required, adding a comment field, or using conditional logic.
  5. Continue adding questions by clicking on the “+” in the toolbar. Remember that you can also add sections to your survey to organise it on multiple pages.
  6. Click on the paint palette at the top of the page to customise the look of your form.
  7. Visit the “Settings” tab of your form to tweak any settings, such as managing how responses are collected or the presentation of your form (for example, showing a progress bar or shuffling the question order).
  8. Choose how you want to share your survey by clicking on the "send" tab. You can share it via email, an embed code, social media, or by copying a link to share with others.
  9. Click the "Send" button to share your survey with others and start collecting responses.

In all honesty, the steps are pretty straightforward. The best way to learn the ins and outs of Google Forms is to play around. So, don’t be afraid to start a new form, test out the different features and question types, and move things around. It’ll all feel familiar in no time.

Want to make a survey that matches your brand?

Start a Paperform 14-day free trial today. No credit card required.

How to add your form responses to Google Sheets

Particularly if you’re expecting a lot of form responses, you need an easy way to analyse and understand the submissions—without getting a hand cramp from clicking through each response.

A spreadsheet is the perfect option and, as you might expect, Google Forms makes it super easy to store, view, and analyse all of your form submissions in another one of their apps: Google Sheets.

Don’t worry—there’s no manual copying and pasting involved here. Google will take care of automatically adding all of your form responses to your spreadsheet. Here’s how to make it happen:

  • On the edit screen of your form, navigate to the responses tab.
  • Click the three vertical dots and click “Select response destination.”
  • In that popup, select whether you want to create a new spreadsheet for your responses (and name it accordingly) or add responses to an existing spreadsheet.
Sending responses to a Google Sheet in Google Forms(Image Source: Google Forms)

That’s all it takes. The seamless interaction between Google Forms and Google Sheets is one of the biggest selling points.

But rest assured that you can get this level of integration with other more advanced form builders too. Paperform, as one example, can easily be directly connected to Google Sheets, Airtable, Excel, and more.

How to share your Google Forms

You aren’t building your form just for you. You need to be able to share it with other people—whether it’s your actual recipients or team members who need to add their own two cents to your form, quiz, or survey before it’s finalised. Here’s how to do both.

Sharing your form with team members and collaborators

It probably comes as little surprise that Google is all about collaboration, which means it’s easy to add other people to your forms so they can edit your questions or create some of their own.

To share your form with collaborators, click the “more” button (it looks like three vertical dots) in the edit screen of your form. Click “add collaborators” and then type in the email address of the person you want to invite.

Adding collaborators to your Google Form(Image Source: Google Forms)

Click “done” and they’ll receive a link to access and edit your form.

Sharing your form with recipients

Of course, you need people to complete your form. To do so, you need to send it to them. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to do.

In the edit screen of your form, click the “send” button in the upper right corner. That opens a popup where you have several options for sharing your form, including:

  • Send the form via email
  • Copy a link to share the form
  • Get an embed code for your form
  • Share your form to Facebook or Twitter

Choose the option you want, customise any details (like changing the email subject and message, for example) and click “send.”

Sharing your Google Form via email(Image Source: Google Forms)

Google Forms offers straightforward sharing capabilities—certainly enough to get the job done. However, more advanced form builders like Paperform offer even more advanced features, such as the ability to share your form with a QR code or embed it seamlessly and without watermarks on your website.

Form a better life now.

Google Forms add-ons and automations to know

The last thing you want is a form that requires a tonne of manual work and heavy lifting. While the creation of your form can be pretty simple, you can take things a step further with various add-ons and automations to streamline your process even further.

Google Forms add-ons

An add-on is a third-party app or feature that you can tack onto your Google Forms for additional features. To use an add-on, click the three dots in the top right of your form’s edit screen. Click “add-ons,” search and find the one you want, and click “install.” Here are just a few worth checking out:

  1. Advanced Summary: Google will create a visual report for your Google Forms data, but it lacks some filtering tools. Advanced Summary creates an improved response summary—with plenty of beautiful charts.
  2. Form Choice Limiter: If you’re using a form to schedule appointments (or anything similar), this add-on will make the process a lot more manageable. You can set a limit for how many times a response can be selected.

    When the limit is reached, the response is automatically removed from your form so nobody else can choose it. If you need to close your entire Google Form at a specific time, you’ll need the formLimiter add-on (similar name, but different features) to do that.
  3. Signature: Have a form that requires signatures? This add-on makes it easy to add sign-on-screen signatures to your Google Forms.

Google Forms automations

It’s easy to connect your Google Form directly to a spreadsheet. But beyond that, any built-in Google Form automations are pretty limited.

However, there are plenty of other apps and tools that offer integrations with Google Forms. Plus, you can use a third-party automation tool (like Zapier) to set up automated workflows between Google Forms and your other apps—whether you want to automatically turn form responses into Trello cards or share Google Form responses in a Slack channel.

While Google is undoubtedly a tech giant, it’s not the only form builder that offers helpful and time-saving automations and integrations. Paperform integrates directly with tonnes of different tools. Plus, there are several popular automation templates that you can copy and use.

Your form (builder) matters

Google Forms is often the default choice for form creation and management—and for good reason. It’s free, easy to use, and comes with a variety of features.

But it’s not the only choice out there. There are plenty of alternatives (like Paperform) that might be a better fit for your specific needs—whether that’s more advanced features, integrations, or a different interface.

Not sure which form builder is the right option for you? Test a few out and you’re sure to land on one that takes the pain out of collecting feedback and analysing responses. Sign up for your two-week free trial of Paperform and start building forms with brains and beauty today.


About the author
Kat Boogaard
Paperform Contributor
Kat is a freelance writer focused on our working world. When she’s not at her computer, you’ll find her spending time with her family—which includes two adorable sons and two rebellious rescue mutts.

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