3 Free & Easy Ways To Create Surveys And Collect Data Online

Do you need to collect data for your organisation? Are you desperate to find out the thoughts and needs of your community via a survey? Are you putting both tasks off because the very thought of them invokes a fear of future pain and frustration? Could these three online data collection tools help you?


This year I agreed to become the social class rep for my daughter’s year group at school. Hey, I thought to myself, I can do this! All it involves is the organisation of coffee mornings and dinners so that parents can get to know each other better. Oh and the role also includes the creation of the dreaded contact list. 


Now I’ve been down this road before. In a previous school, we sent out emails and paper contact questionnaires and then filled in a spreadsheet manually. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong! It was a major headache and extremely time consuming to boot.


So this year, I thought I would put some of my business tool to good use in my personal life and I used a form in Google Docs to collect the data and filter it straight into a spreadsheet.

Job done. 


The feedback I’ve had from this has been really lovely. Many people had the wrong impression that I was extremely clever with my contact collection. This surprised me and also prompted the idea for this blog post.


If you have to collect data for your business or if you want to conduct a survey of your community, how do you go about it? Do you find it a painful process from start to finish? First, you have to design the form and think up the correct questions. Then, you have to send that form to your community, collect the responses and analyse the results.


Just writing that last paragraph made me feel exhausted. 


Do you know that data collection doesn’t have to be this way? Do you know that you can create awesome surveys and data collection forms that will impress your community and do all the hard work for you? Well you can! Just take a look at these three free tools and feel the stress melt away.


Google Forms

So, this is what I used to create my school contact list. I have also used Google Forms to create a client website development questionnaire and many other surveys for my business. The process of form creation is so simple. You can find Google Forms in your Google Home & Work app. Or log into Google Drive, click ‘new’ in the top left corner, hover over ‘more’ and select ‘forms’.

Google Forms Make Surveys Easy Peasy!
Google Forms Make Surveys Easy Peasy!

Now you can start to craft your questions. You have a question title to choose, an option to add some ‘help’ text in case your question is tricky and you can also select the type of question that you need.


Once you have completed your first question, simply click ‘add item’ to write another question. You can change the order of your questions by dragging them and dropping them into place.

Google Forms Templates
Google Forms Templates

When you have completed all of your questions, you can choose a theme for your form. Click ‘change theme’ at the top of the form and choose from the menu of template options. You can also customise your theme by clicking ‘customise’ under the name of a template. By doing this, you can upload your own brand images and select your branded fonts and colour scheme.  


If you have a form that features different question paths depending on the answer to different questions, you can control your form’s page-to-page navigation. Say, for example, you want to test the water before you launch a new service. Your first question could simply be “Would You Use This Service?” If your respondent answers yes, you could take them to a page of questions related to this response. If the answer is no you can send them to a page designed to gauge why this is the case. 


Your next step is to decide where you would like to collect your results.You can choose to send responses to a spreadsheet or you can store them in Google Forms. 


You now need to send your survey to its intended audience. With Google Forms you can do this by sending a link, an email, by embedding the form onto your website or by sharing the form on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.


However, before you press ‘send’ consider customising your confirmation page. This is the page that comes up after your respondent has finished your form. 


Finally, if you want to work on your form with other people in your organisation or industry you can click the file and select ‘add collaborators’.


Creating questionnaires with Google Forms is really easy. The forms themselves look extremely professional and your results are sent straight to a spreadsheet. If you then want to filter the data you collect, you can do so via Google Sheets.

Google Forms Allows You To Brand Your Surveys For Free!
Google Forms Allows You To Brand Your Surveys For Free!

SurveyMonkey

As a regular user of PicMonkey and MailChimp, I found myself drawn to SurveyMonkey and with good reason as it is one of the world’s leading providers of web-based survey solutions. SurveyMonkey offers a free version and three levels of paid subscriptions - Select at £25 per month, Gold at £300 per year and Platinum at £800 per year. You will have to upgrade to include your business logo, to get rid of the SurveyMonkey branding, to download your survey results onto spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations and for the ability to track trends over time. The free version is limited to 10 questions and 100 responses per survey. 


You definitely feel with SurveyMonkey that you should upgrade to get the full benefit of the functionality that it offers. However, 10 questions is still quite a lot and for a small business 100 responses might well be all that you need. The thing that I would miss is the conversion from response to spreadsheet data. However, I totally get that SurveyMonkey is a business and needs to charge for the service that it offers.

SurveyMonkey Dashboard
SurveyMonkey Dashboard

Staying with the free version for the time being, however, and you will find it super easy to create a simple survey with SurveyMonkey. Simply log in and click the top right ‘Create A Survey’ button. You are then given the option to create a survey from scratch, edit a copy of an existing survey or start from an expert template. 


Let’s say that you want to start from scratch. Give your survey a name and a category and away you go! You are taken to a dashboard that gives you lots of options to design and build your survey. You can choose a colour scheme by selecting ‘Themes’. You can select from a great selection of question types in the ‘Builder’ and, if you get stuck, you can seek inspiration from a ‘Question Bank’ of potential questions.


SurveyMonkey's Building Options
SurveyMonkey's Building Options


Survey Monkey’s free version allows you to send out your survey by sending a web link, an email, or by posting your survey on Facebook. Alternatively, you can embed the survey on your site or blog. I really like this feature. You have three options: you can embed your survey onto a page of your website, you can embed a pop-up invitation to fill in your survey when someone visits a specific page on your website or you can embed a pop-up window containing your survey when someone visits a specific page on your website. This is a powerful tool in itself and could also be a really effective way to build your email list.  


Sharing Your Survey With SurveyMonkey
Sharing Your Survey With SurveyMonkey

Survey Monkey. as with Google, allows you to see the results of your survey in real time. 

PollDaddy

PollDaddy is another popular way to create surveys and collect data. It offers more functionality with its free version than SurveyMonkey. I also like the way PollDaddy allows you to customise your start message. You can also upload your logo to this message. However, you will need to upgrade to a paid version to create a finish message and a custom redirect to take your respondent to a specific web page once they have completed your survey.


Before we go on, let’s take a look at the free and paid versions. The free version contains PollDaddy links and offers basic reports. For more detailed reports and the ability to export your data, you can upgrade to Professional which costs $200 per year. If you need up to ten accounts on PollDaddy, you can upgrade again to Corporate, which will cost you $899 per year.

Going back to the free version, once you have completed your initial settings, you can create your survey by selecting a number of options from a left side bar. You can then move on to selecting a survey style.


I really like the ability to choose from a range of free professional templates with PollDaddy. If you need to customise your template, you have to upgrade but as you have the ability to upload your logo, you may not need to.


PollDaddy Survey Templates
PollDaddy Survey Templates

Once you are happy with your design, Poll Daddy offers you a number of ways to send your survey out. You can send a web link, post it to Facebook or add your survey to a Facebook page, and you can tweet a link to your survey. In addition, you can customise a survey pop-up button, banner or slider to embed onto a specific page on your website. You can also embed the survey onto a website page. 

So there you have it  - three easy and free ways to create surveys and collect data online. Overall, I would probably stick with Google Forms if you don’t want to pay to upgrade to a paid version. However, having said that, PollDaddy and SurveyMonkey’s free pop-up functionality is very tempting! 


Have a play - I’d love to know what you think! Leave me a comment in the box below.  


Thank you for reading! 


Take care, Jane x