I tried using Google Forms today on the recommendation of the Typepad Knowledge base. That was a mistake. Google Forms, part of the Google Docs cloud computing software program, is a real mess. I tried Google Docs once two years ago and have avoided it since because it creates a similar set of problems: to summarize, you're locked into formats that any user should see don't function properly within ten minutes. For a set of smart cookies, the people at Google can be really dumb sometimes.
Here are the problems I've encountered in Google Forms within the first two hours of use:
1) It is impossible to get a results sheet. In the "edit form" page, you're offered two choices: summary or spreadsheet view. Summery view is a pie chart, as if you're taking a poll and not trying to obtain particular information from specific users (I had been hoping to use Google Forms to create an estimate template for my photo business). Spreadsheet is an Excel-style page that is totally unreadable. First of all, the questions are displayed in no particular order. Second, the spreadsheet includes questions that have been deleted from the form, i.e., questions that will never contain any data because they are not there. Third, the columns are so small that a paragraph answer could spread down for one or two dozen rows, making it very difficult to read. Fourth, there is no notification system for finding out if anyone has submitted a form.
2) The background templates are very difficult to manage. Out of the 97 that are offered, I had a lot of difficulty finding one that fit correctly in the 800 pixel space on the Typepad page where the form was to be inserted. Many templates were either too narrow (thus leaving awkward huge blocks of space) or too wide (leaving the text to run off the page). Google should make the template margins flexible, or at least leave a way to edit them in HTML.
3) It is impossible to mix choice answers (e.g., "Yes," "10," etc.) with paragraph answers. Thus, if there is an answer choice requiring additional details submitted by the user, the only way to allow for it is to bounce users to a second page to fill in the additional details. This must be done for all answers in block, even if I don't need additional information for some of them.
4) There is no reasonable way to organize, split, or delete entries. Thus, if I did go on using this form, it would collect on one spreadsheet all the entries that have been submitted until the end of time. At the very least, this would require creating a new form every time I wanted a new results sheet. Additionally, deleted entries do not disappear from the summary page.
I don't think the way I was using the software was outside the boundaries of what Google intended it for. On their help page, Google says that forms can be used to collect information, give quizzes to students or plan events. It would not work well for any of these purposes because of the problems I've mentioned. Nor is their "collect and view responses" page helpful in responding to any of the issues I've outlined.
Granted, Google states that all parts of the spreadsheet may not work in Firefox- they suggest using it in Chrome. Well, I haven't tried Chrome yet but I have tried Safari, and it didn't work any better there. I don't think I should need to open a new browser to see some survey results.
I've wasted two hours of my time and now I'll need to find another site and start from scratch. Will update this entry with some better alternatives.
Update: I went to Jotform.com. It took about 20 minutes to set up and it works! The only catch is if my business becomes too popular I will have to pay for the service. The submissions come in directly to my email box directly.
Video tutorial description: This tutorial goes over how to use Google Forms in Google Docs. We show you how an insurance agency would collect testimonials from existing clients to use for marketing. [bert0313]