List Alerts Rule

When the Microsoft Lists app was introduced I was a bit apprehensive, as I did not really know what all the fuss was about. But now that I have worked with Lists, I am starting to see the light! A few things that I like:

  • You can create personal Lists, which appear to live on OneDrive (as the URL for a list starts similarly, but I have no clue where to access them on OneDrive)
  • The options for colour and icons (trivial, but nice)
  • The ability to create a list from an Excel file, see my earlier post
  • The templates with content
  • Rules. You can create Rules to send yourself an email when something happens in your list.

But…you can also set an oldfashioned Alert. So, guess what I am going to do in this post? Ah, you know me by now. 🙂

Setup:

I used an Issue Tracker list in a personal and a SharePoint version. (In SharePoint, you can use “Add an app” from the gear wheel menu, or “New > List” or “New > App” from the Site Contents page)

I have set one Alert (for new items) as I know how that works

I have also set all the Rules, as I am curious what I will see, two in the Personal version and two in SharePoint.

How does the Alert work?

  • You can do this from the Lists app and from SharePoint
  • You can do this on a personal list (👍) and on SharePoint
  • Microsoft information
  • In the top bar, click “Alert Me” or the … at the right of the other commands and select “Alert Me”
Setting an Alert in SharePoint. This can also be done from the Lists app and in personal Lists.
  • Adjust the popup to your purpose and click “Save”
  • You will receive an email confirmation
  • When the desired change happens in the list, you will get an email
  • The sender will be yourself if the Alert is from a personal list, or the site name if it is from a SharePoint list.
The familiar Alerts functionality
This is the email body from the Alert

How do Rules work?

  • You can do this from the Lists app and from SharePoint
  • You can do this on a personal list and on SharePoint
  • You can find the Rule option in the top bar under “Automate”
Creating a rule in SharePoint (this can also be done from the Lists app, and for personal Lists)

You have 4 options:

  • A column changes
  • A column value changes
  • A new item is created
  • An item is deleted
The available options for a rule

Creating the rule is pretty easy – click on the desired change and in most cases you just select the column and/or enter the email adress of the person(s) you want to send the change to (including a Me option).

The most complicated one is “a column value changes” as this will ask you the column, e.g. “Status”, the condition (“is” or “is not”) and the value, e.g. “Completed”, and then the email address.

Setting the Rule for when a column value changes
  • You do not get a confirmation email
  • The sender is SharePoint Online
  • When the conditions are met, you will get the following emails:
The notifications from Rules; for Personal Lists they are in Dutch
The email body from this Rule; please note that it uses the known document management icons
Another mail, deleted this time.

But wait, there’s more!

The Reminder, of course! That is a long-desired option that has always been missing in Alerts.

The long-awaited reminder function!

This reminder option will send a notification x days before a certain date. This date needs to be a Time and Date field and can not be a calculated field, so any calculated Due Dates can not be done.
In this case, a reminder before the Data reported is also quite silly, as this is an Issue tracker and the Date Reported is at best Today and sometimes even in the past.

The reminders are Power Automate, and you can find them under My Flows.

The reminders are based on Power Automate

I have set a reminder for 1 day before the Estimated Close date on May 4. So I expected the mail on May 3, but it only arrived on May 4, 01.00 hours. So you have to select the interval carefully.

The Reminders
And this is the reminder mail, the other one is similar. Note the time sent!

What do I think?

  • 👍 You can set Alerts and Rules in personal Lists. It can be useful when you are sharing a List with someone.
  • 👍 Rules are easy to set up – you can use “Me” to send an email to yourself
  • 👍 Rules use a familiar look and feel for emails – it looks like sharing emails and uses the regular document management icons
  • 👉 The Reminder option can be useful, but it only works on dates in the future that you pick yourself. An option to work on calculated dates would be nice!
  • 👉 The Reminder option works, but you have to test whether your reminder arrives on the desired time. In this experiment, 1 day turned out to be “on the day itself”.
  • 👎 Rules do not take a change of list name into account. I changed the personal list to “Issue tracker Personal” but the email from the Rule did not adjust. The email from the Alert did, so did the mail from the Reminder.
  • 👎 I miss a Rule for: “any changes in the List”. Quite often more than one column is changed, so that would mean you will need to set more Rules in order to be informed properly. You can set 15 rules on any List.
  • 👎 The information in the email from Rules is minimal – you have to go to the List to see what has changed. This makes Alerts more useful for any changes except Deletions
  • 👎 The emails could benefit from more visual (typographic or otherwise) distinction between the actions and values, e.g. ” Ellen van Aken changed Assigned To to Ellen van Aken for SharePoint News does not show the latest items
  • 👎 The sender of a Rule notification is always SharePoint Online – that gives less information than the sender of Alerts, which is yourself (for a personal list) or the SharePoint site name (for a SharePoint list). Especially when you have created many Rules, it may be hard to see what’s what.

Conclusion

I think this is very promising functionality, but I think it can be improved, especially on “information scent”. For the time being I prefer the good old fashioned Alert. It does not look as nice, but it gives you more information!

What are your thoughts/experiences?

Create a List based on Forms responses – 2

In last week’s episode, we learned that you can use the Excel spreadsheet you get as a result from your Form, to create a Microsoft List. In this case I needed the easy data entry in Forms, but wanted to move the data (using a workflow) into a corresponding SharePoint list in order to facilitate a process.

This time I checked what happens if I use the other answer types (Date, Ranking, Likert, File Upload and Net Promotor Score) as a basis for a new List. I set up a Form with those fields, entered one response, downloaded the Excel and imported that into Microsoft Lists.

Let me share the full “Translation” here, so you have everything in one place.

Field type in FormsSuggested Column in Lists
IDDo not import
Start TimeTitle
Completion TimeNumber
Choice Single line of text
Text shortSingle line of text
Text longSingle line of text
Text numberNumber
RatingNumber
DateNumber
RankingSingle line of text
LikertSingle line of text (one per statement)
File UploadSingle line of text
Net Promotor ScoreNumber

Please note that the “Number” columns have more options to select from than the columns identified as “Single line of text”.

A number column and its options
A Single Line of Text column and its options

More findings:

  • By default, the Date answer from Forms is translated into a Number column in the List. If you want a proper date in your List, make sure you change these during import, as you can not change into a Date and Time column after import.
  • A Likert scale answer will provide you with one column for every statement (=row). I have never liked these question types, as they are a lot of work, but they also provide a ton of clutter in your list 😁
  • The NPS gives you just a number, not the calculation of course.
  • The File Upload option in Forms gives you an ugly URL. Sadly there is no option to change this column into a Hyperlink column.
Yikes (The link to the file that has been uploaded in Forms and now lives in my OneDrive)

Suggestions

I will repeat my suggestions from last time, and have added some new ones, so you have them in one place.

Forms design suggestions:

  • Collect requesters’ email addresses (and names) by default in the Form. Those will be captured in the Excel automatically and can be pushed to the List, saving your users time in entering this info manually.
  • Try to think of a unique identifier in your Form that you can use to fill the Title field in the List.

Import suggestions:

  • When you enter your first item to create the Excel, use short dummy text to avoid scrolling when importing the Excel. (How do I know that, you ask? 😉)
  • Select “Do not import” for the Excel columns “ID”, “Start Time” and “Completion Time” unless you really need those. (see next item)
  • Make sure you map the Title column first when you create your List, or Lists will keep making suggestions until that field is mapped.
  • If you have a Date column in your Form, other than the Start and Completion time, change that into a Date and Time column during import, as you will be unable to change it later.
  • The Net Promotor Score will only return the number of each response, so think carefully if you really want to import this column into the list. The complete calculation, and the graphic, is nicely done in Forms and it may be easier to check that.
The NPS is a calculation based on all responses – you can not capture this in a Calculated Column.

List suggestions:

  • Is the Start Time of the Form entry important, e.g. if these are requests and you need to sort those in order of entry, or calculate a response time? Use the default “Created” date/time of the item in the List. The workflow may have a few seconds delay, but it is usually the date that is important, not the exact time. This allows you to skip the date columns from the Forms/Excel during import.
  • If you have Choice fields in your Form, it makes sense to configure the corresponding columns in the List as Choice fields and add the values. This will allow you to make use of List column formatting, such as displaying each value as a “coloured choice pill” for easy recognition. You can do this after import.

Conclusion:

Yes, it is certainly possible to use the Excel spreadsheet that is produced from your Form, as a basis for a Microsoft List. However, the import is pretty basic (Numbers and Single Line of Text fields by default), so you will need to think carefully about how to import each answer, because you can not change all of them afterwards.

If your Form is very long it can certainly help, but if your Form only has a few questions, I think you can just as quickly make a list from scratch and make sure that all columns are correct from the start. But of course one wonders if a scenario like this was in scope when developing all this functionality.

Do you have any experience with this kind of set-up, and if yes, do you have any tips or tricks to share?

Create a List based on Forms responses – 1

A colleague asked if we could make his process easier by collecting requests through Forms instead of completing a Word document and then emailing it.
After discussing his process it appeared that the regular Forms output (the graphs and the Excel file) was not sufficient for his ongoing process. So we decided on a different approach:

  • use Forms to collect the requests from colleagues across the organization.
  • use Power Automate to send the responses into a List in a (restricted) SharePoint site. We will not go into details about the workflow itself, but please be aware it is part of the process.
  • the team can process the requests from their SharePoint site.

This has advantages and some risks:

  • 👍 Forms has nice interface for the requester
  • 👍 Requests can be made from phone if desired
  • 👍 Form can be accessed by QR code if needed
  • 👍 Branching in Forms (skipping questions based on earlier answers) is possible, making the workload for the requester as small as possible
  • 👍 As the workflow is user-based, there is no need to manage extra permissions to the SharePoint list (the requests can be entered by more people than currently have access to the SharePoint site)
  • 👍 Many options to slice and dice the requests into reports: open and completed, most popular request types, how many requests in a year, etc.
  • 👎 The workflow can break
  • 👎 Workflow and list need to be adjusted when the Form changes

Using the Excel file to create the List

I wanted to see whether I could use the Excel file from the Form as the basis for the List, as I was curious if this would save time.

  1. I created a Form, using a sample of each question/response option in Choice, Text, Rating. (In my next post I will use the other response options)
  2. I completed one request to create the Excel
  3. I downloaded the Excel file to my PC – you can also save it to OneDrive
  4. I then went to the Lists homepage, clicked on “New List” and then “From Excel”
  5. I uploaded the Excel (or select from OneDrive)
  6. For each column I had the option to “Do not import” or check and adjust the column type
  7. As any List needs a Title field, the system proposed to use the “Start time” (which is unique, so although not very informative, I used it). I can imagine for a real life situation, you will need to think about this.
  8. When I was done adjusting column types, I clicked “Next” and then I could adjust the title, add a list description, select colour and icon, and determine whether it will “live” in my OneDrive (personal list) or in a SharePoint site.
  9. I then checked the result
The import screen. For each field you get a proposed column type that you can change. “Do not import” is also an option.
You scroll to the right to map each field to a column.

Findings:

👉 The columns proposed were moderately adequate. The Ratings were all Number columns (good), but the Multiple Lines of Text and the Choice columns were all proposed as Single Line of Text.

If you do not adjust column types, this is what you will get. The blue columns have not been set correctly.

👎 The “Start Time” and “Completion Time” are in a regular date/time format in the Excel, but if you do nothing they turn into a sort of strange calculated number during import. It is a Number column that you can not change after creating the list. I am sure it is extremely unique to the millisecond, but not usable for real humans, so I would suggest to “Do not import” this column unless absolutely necessary. In that case, make sure you turn it into a Date/Time column while importing your Excel file.

The title field, which is a single-line-of-text column with a weird start time notation. Completion time is a number column.

👉 Changing the Choice fields into Choice columns during import made the columns into default choice columns, with dropdown and no values.

Suggestions:

  • Collect requesters’ email addresses (and names) by default in the Form. Those will be captured in the Excel and can be pushed to the List, saving time in entering this info manually.
  • Try to think of a unique identifier in your Form that you can use to fill the Title field in the List.
  • When you enter your first item to create the Excel, use short dummy text to avoid scrolling when importing the Excel. (I entered a ton of text into the Multiple Line of Text field, but that was not a good idea 🥴)
  • Is the date of the request important, e.g. if you need to sort the requests in order of entry, or calculate a response time? Use the default “Created” date/time of the item in the List. The workflow may have a few seconds delay, but it is usually the date that is important, not the exact time. This allows you to skip the date columns from the Forms/Excel.
  • Make sure you select the Title column first when you create your List, or Lists will keep making suggestions until that field is mapped.
  • Select “Do not import” for the Excel columns “ID”, “Start Time” and “Completion Time” unless you really need those
  • If you have Choice fields in your Form, it makes sense to configure the corresponding columns in the List as Choice fields and add the values. This will allow you to make use of List column formatting, such as displaying each value as a “coloured choice pill” for easy recognition.
If you configure your Choice values as Choice columns and enter the values, you can give the options a different colour each, using Column formatting.

Conclusion

I am not so sure if using the Excel file as the basis for the list saves much time. You need to carefully select and adjust the column type during and after import. I am sure that practice will make perfect, and I will test that in my next experiment with the other Forms-options, but if you are a practiced List creator (and I am one) you may be faster when you create your list from scratch in your SharePoint site.
It was one of my first experiences with the Lists app, however, and I have seen a few things that I like! 😍

SharePoint News or List?

One of my colleagues asked me to help her with setting up a “news functionality” in a communications site. She had the following requirements:

  • nice and inviting looking, with images
  • easy to add news for two or three publishers
  • readers have the option to set an email notification

SharePoint News?

SharePoint News is excellent of course, but it does not lend itself well to notifications, as we have seen before.

Sending a News digest then? No, because the site owner does not know whom to send it to. The content is not confidential and the site is accessible for all employees. The content is not of interest for all employees, so sending it to “All Employees” is not a good option either. Any other option would need her to maintain users – but she has kept the site open so she does not have to maintain anything more than some publishers.

Same issue with a Power Automate action – although that works better than a notification, she does not know whom to send it to. And asking all interested people to create a workflow themselves would create a ton of support questions. “Low-code” is still “too much code” for someone who is not interested in creating workflows.
BTW, I have used the “Send a customized email when a new file is added” template for some time, which sends a link to a recently published News item.

A list, then?

So I decided to check something else. Whatever happened to the good old Announcement list, that I have used so often in earlier roles? And had I not recently seen a new list template with a large image on display?
I decided to check if one of these could meet all requirements. Besides, it would provide a good reason to play with the new Lists app 🙂

Announcement list?

👎 There is no Announcement list template in a Communication site. I knew that the Communication site has fewer options, but I just forgot that this was also not available.

👍 When I started to work from a Custom List, I found that I could add a column to upload a picture. That must be new – I only remember the unpleasant option for “hyperlink or picture” that needs a link and a properly formatted image.

👍 The Custom List now also has a Gallery View option, which I used to create a News view, consisting of

  • Image (upload)
  • Title (single line of text)
  • Body (multiple lines of text)
  • Created (system)

👉 You will need to have the picture stored on your PC when you create a news item in this way. This means you can not use those lovely Stock Photo, Search on Web and Organizational Assets options you have when creating a News item, but I guess that for some people this may not be a problem.

👍 Looks nice when added to a page.

👍 When you click on an item from the page, you can read the item in full.

👎 Notifications work as expected, but instead of a thumbnail of the image, you see an unpleasant URL.

This is a notification email. The image does not display. The title (highlighted) is clickable and leads to the item.

Asset Manager list?

So, I decided to investigate that Asset Manager list template that I saw displayed in the new Lists app.
After a few tests, I removed all columns except:

  • Device Photo (which I renamed to Image)
  • Asset Tag (which in the List settings is called Title and cannot be renamed, single line of text)
  • Condition Notes (which is the only Multiple line of text field in the list). I renamed that to “Body” to be in line with the Announcements list.
  • I created a News view based on the Asset Gallery View and added that to the page

Well, it looked as if I just recreated that Custom List 🙂 It behaved in exactly the same way as the other one.

Other observations about Lists

When you click “Create an app” from the Site menu, it leads you to the old page with the different list templates. When you click “New List” from the Site Contents page you go to the new List apps creation page. You can also select “New App” which will lead you to the “old” lists.
I hope this will get streamlined over time as it can be a bit confusing.

The “oldfashioned” apps when you click the gear wheel.
Clicking “List” will give you the new Lists options, and using “App” will give you the “oldfashioned” lists.

You will see a bit of the body text if you use “Plain Text” in the body. If you use “Rich Text” or “Enhanced Rich Text”, it will not display. I personally like the Rich Text, as it gives you just a few more options, but I guess you will need to decide what is most important.

The body text in the Announcements list is Rich Text, while the body text in the Asset list is Plain Text.

When you click on an item from the page, you see a reasonably nice page to read the full news item.
If you click from the list, you get a much more unpleasant view, huddled to the right with a “Show more” link for the body text, even if the text is not that long.

If you click on the title of the item from the web part on the page, you will get this.
When you click on the item from the list itself, you get this. You have to click on “See more” even though there is not THAT much text.

Conclusion

All three options can facilitate creating news items easily, once someone has set up those lists and web parts.

All options together on one page.

SharePoint News is superior in options for making great pages, and also has more display options for the web part, but the other lists provide better options for notifications, although the notification email is very plain.

Owner’s decision

When the site owner saw the SharePoint News, and the News digest, she fell in love instantly and decided that maintaining a Distribution List (yikes, but one of the few options to send a News digest quickly to a large audience) for her “core audience” was worth the extra work. The “core audience” can then distribute it to others.

Case completed 🙂

VR image by Florian Pircher on Pixabay

Computer image by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels

Chairs image by Skitterphoto on Pexels

352 ways to show Quick Links in SharePoint

As my organization is slowly getting used to the look of modern SharePoint sites that go with a Team site, I am getting more and more questions about how to create those “buttons” that some of our pioneers added to their site.

For Classic sites I once made an overview of the options for Summary Links, which is a web part to store lists of links, with styling options. The equivalent in Modern sites is the Quick Links web part.

Now we can have a debate on the “Quick” aspect of Quick Links, but let’s not go into that and let’s focus on the ways you can make them look. (But if you are curious, you may want to read this article by the Nielsen Norman Group)

How did I prepare?

  • In one of my SharePoint sites, I created a new page and added a header from the new Stock Images (👍 nice!)
  • I added a one-column section
  • I added a Quick Links web part to the section
  • I added some individual links with either an image (Web search), an image from the new Stock Images option (again: nice!) or an icon (also much-appreciated functionality).
  • To some links I added a description.

This is the result:

Starting point for my experiments

Now you have a number of options for how those 8 links are shown.
Of course in a real-life situation you would not want to mix images and icons but for demonstration purposes it makes sense.

6 Web part layout options

When your page is in edit mode, and you click the edit icon for the web part, you get 6 options for layout. Each option can have sub-options.

6 options for different displays of your links

“Compact” is the default option, as shown in the screenshots above. If I uncheck “Show image in layout” the images and icons are removed.
2 options.

No images – a bit plain, right?

Filmstrip” gives a large emphasis on the image. You can move from left to right with arrows, and on the bottom you will see an indication that there’s more than these 4.
1 option.

The “Filmstrip” layout emphasizes the images …
… but it appears NOT to show any default icons (in this case, from a document library)

Grid” shows the links in tiles with large images, again not displaying default icons.
1 option.

Grid – large images, but no default icon

Buttons” has a ton of options:

Description yes/no, image yes/no, appearance, alignment and number of lines: buttons has many options.

Let’s show a few:

With description, icon on left, button outline, centered and two lines of text
No description, icon on top, no outline, top aligned and one line of text (which makes it slightly more compact)

And the option that is very popular in my organization:

No description, no icon, fill colour, center alignment and two lines. If you only use icons, and no images, with your links, this is a good option too.

So the Buttons option alone has 72 display options!

The “List” layout has 4 options: with or without icon, and with or without description. It looks like the Buttons option with the icon on the left, but it is slightly different when you toggle between the two.
4 options.

The List option with icon and description

And finally there is the “Tiles” option, which shows your links in squares. There are 5 sizes, and for the smallest 3 you can decide whether you want to show just the icon, or only the image. I am sharing the two most extreme options.
8 options.

Small tiles with title
The largest image where there is no room for the title

So, all in all you have 88 options to choose from!

But wait, there’s more: 4 section background colours

When you edit the section, you can determine the columns, but also select one of 4 colour options for the section background from left to right: none (as shown in the screenshot), neutral, soft and strong. The exact colours depend on the theme of the site.
So, multiply the 88 options of the web part with the 4 background options and you get…352 options!

These are the options:

You can select 4 different hues

This is the default Compact option with images with 3 backgrounds:

The neutral background
Soft background-the screenshot shows hardly any difference with white
The strong background – that is VERY visible

When you have selected a Link option with a fill-in colour, such as the Button (fill colour) or the Tiles, and you use the strong background, the colour of the buttons will revert to white, for maximum contrast.

The Button with fill colour – now white with strong background.
Tiles with strong background – the icon tiles change to white.

Conclusion

There’s 352 ways to make a nice list of links on your SharePoint page.
It is easy to switch from one style to the other so you can play around until you have found the best style for your purposes.

I would not quickly select one without a title – I have clicked too many image-only buttons that led to something I had not expected or wanted. Tell people what they can expect or do and do not leave them guessing. Nielsen-Norman group have many suggestions for link names with good “information scent”.

What’s your favourite Quick Link style?

Note: I have recently switched to the WordPress’s Block Editor. This has changed the way image captions are being displayed.

Some intranet promotion videos – part 4

Intranetvideos4While List.ly is doing their best to get their Vimeo videos displayed properly, I thought I’d share a number of recent finds with you.
Where available, I have added related videos so you do not have 5, but 8 items to look at. In total, this should keep you busy for a little more than 30 minutes! 🙂

Stay indoors and stay safe!

1. Intro to Delve

Quite a good introduction to the capabilities of Delve. It is not very specific to the organization (a University in Melbourne, Australia) so it is very reusable. They also have good videos for Managing permissions in Delve and Managing your Office profile.

The logos are outdated so I guess the video is older than the upload date of February 2020. But as far as I can check in my one-person Delve, the functionality is still correct.

2. Your new intranet (in Portuguese)

Teaser for the upcoming new intranet at Samsonite Brazil. 
Uploaded March 2020. 

 

3. CM3 SharePoint – your first walkthrough

Quite a long demo of this SharePoint intranet for a USA-based building services organization. This demo starts with the log-on process and it starts to get really interesting from 1.40 onwards, when the homepage is shown. I am fascinated by the colour scheme! It has a lot of useful content and other stuff. In their next video, they look a bit more at the homepage and the SharePoint functionalities and invite you to name the intranet (by completing a Form, of course!).
Uploaded March 2020.

4. Mobile app for real estate organization (builder) – in Dutch

Nice overview of the mobile (SharePoint-based) intranet-app for this Dutch real estate organization. They build houses but also own some DIY-shops in the Netherlands.

This mobile app has a ton of good stuff – News of course, colleague search, employee-stuff. It does not look like the native SharePoint app though.
Uploaded March 2020.

 

5. SmartSpace SharePoint intranet

Walkthrough of a SharePoint intranet for a software organization with offices in UK and USA. The look and feel is quite basic (just the company logo, not even their corporate colours) compared to the design of their proposal templates and website. They appear to do almost everything “corporate” in one site.
Having your Mission and Vision statement on the landing page must become boring after some time, but they may want to change that over time into News or something used frequently. I really like the fact they have a list of approved software (with details) as well as their project portfolio also in SharePoint lists.
Uploaded March 2020.

Forms or Survey – responses and results

Survey-responsesconclusionIn two earlier blogs I compared the Question and Answer types and the General survey settings for 5 different survey tools:

  • Microsoft Forms
  • SharePoint survey
  • SharePoint custom list
  • SurveyMonkey free version
  • Google Forms

Now it is time to gather the responses and see how they are displayed and what you can do with them. It is quite a long read but there are many screenshots as well!

What to look out for?

  • How you can distribute the link to the survey
  • What the survey looks like when you respond
  • How the results are being displayed by default and if you can export them
  • What else you can do with the data

Distribution

All tools allow creating a link or sending an email with the link.

Forms has the additional option to add the form directly on a SharePoint page, which looks very inviting, especially if the survey contains only a few questions. Forms can also generate a QR code to take you to the survey.

Forms-distribution
Sharing options in Forms at the bottom, from left to right: Link, QR code, Embed, Email

The SharePoint survey and Custom List can be added as a web part on a SharePoint page, but they are not exactly inviting users to enter.

SurveyMonkey has many different ways to get responses.

Surveymonkey distribution
Next to link and email, SurveyMonkey offers more options to get responses.

Google Forms allows you to add the survey questions directly into an email, which is very convenient.

Google-distribute
In Google Forms, you can add the complete survey to the email body. That is very easy for the audience!

User Experience

Of course the user experience is very important. If your survey has a tiny typeface, or takes forever to load, people are not likely to complete it.

You can still check out and complete the surveys below, to have an idea of their look-and-feel. Remember: you do not have to add any real data.

Forms

SurveyMonkey  (will close after 100 responses – limitation of the free version)

Google Forms

I am sharing some screenshots of remarkable things.

The Net Promotor Score looks special:

Forms-NPS
The Net Promotor Score column. The image I added made the look-and-feel of the survey different, see David Lozzi’s blog: https://davidlozzi.com/2018/11/13/squeezing-a-little-more-formatting-out-of-microsoft-forms/

This is the SharePoint Survey, in case you had forgotten what it looks like 🙂

Forms-Surveyinput
The good old SharePoint survey.

And this is how you enter data into a SharePoint custom list: in the information pane on the right-hand side of the page, which feels a bit strange.

SurveyList-input
This is the regular input screen in any list for metadata etc.

Next to a rather large font size, SurveyMonkey has the option to create columns for answers, which I really like as they make good use of space:

SurveyMonkey-columns
Those columns are very good when you have many options to choose from.

SurveyMonkey-slider and reorder
I also like SurveyMonkey’s slider and the reordering options.

Google Forms has nothing special, but it looks solid and modern.

Responses

Thank you everyone who has responded to one of the surveys! This allows me to show some of the results graphs. This is what the various response pages look like:

Microsoft Forms:

Forms-response1
Survey information on top, as well as an option to export everything to Excel. “More details” opens up all responses for a particular question.

Forms-response2
Colourful graphical summary of the responses.

Forms-reponse3
The last part of the survey. Aha, the Net Promotor Score IS quite a special thing!

SharePoint Survey. I am sharing only part of the graphical summary as I guess you have seen it before and it is not very exciting. Now I remember how annoying that “multiple responses” question is – you need to re-score everything manually! 😦

SharePointSurveyResults
Graphical summary of the SharePoint survey. Limited options and that “multiple responses” summary is just not useful.

The SharePoint custom list has no graphical summary. You just see the responses as line items in a list.

SurveyMonkey has a very long page of results. All responses are shown with a scroll bar (see the first screenshot) or with a graphical summary first and then the individual responses below. For each chart, you can change the chart type.
I will only show a few screens.

surveymonkeyresults1
You can see how many people answered and skipped the question. Most recent responses are shown on top; a scroll bar shows all responses.

Surveymonkeyresults3
A question where a pie chart would have been more appropriate in my opinion. But…clicking the “customize” button top right will open a pane to change the chart type.

SurveyMonkeyresults2
The multiple-answer question. Looks good.

Surveymonkeyresults4
This is the question which allows you to move answers around.

Google Forms results look like this:

Googleformsresults1
Top of the results page. The green button top right allows an export to spreadsheet.

Googleformsresults2

Googleformsresults3
Useful graph of the multiple-choice-question.

Googleformsresults4

Googleformsresults5
Bottom of the results. The “Net Promotor Score” is displayed as any other result.

 Results

I have captured the results in the picture below. You can also view/download this as Excel.  Look at the “Responses and Results” tab. Please use and edit it, but I would appreciate if you would mention my name if you share it outside of your organization.

Legend:

  • Green/Yes: Available by default, although it may have different names
  • Orange: Available with a workaround
  • Red/No: Not available

Formsorsurvey-ResultSettingswithheader
Comparison of the response and results options for the various tools.

Conclusion

Again, the classic SharePoint options are in a league of their own.

Microsoft Forms appears to have more in common with SurveyMonkey Free and Google Forms than with SharePoint. All three surveys are pleasant to complete and the graphical display of results is much better than with the SharePoint survey.

Overall conclusion

Forms is really the new way to conduct surveys in your organization and possibly with externals. It looks pleasant both on a SharePoint page and when completing it, it has a ton of good options, decent colourful graphs and it works with Flow.
Some people will really like that Net Promoter Score 🙂
I am sure that Forms will continue to develop, so I will try to keep this comparison up-to-date.

The SharePoint survey feels a tad outdated, although you can still conduct good surveys with it. The graphical summary is very inferior to what Forms has to offer. My suggestion would be to use this only when you need one of the more advanced Q & A options, such as selecting a name from someone in your organization. The whole permissions management is also more complicated than with Forms, as described in my “SharePoint Survey lifecycle” blog.

The SharePoint custom list may not be the option that comes to mind first when you talk about a survey, but especially the options to process the data after collection can be the reason to use it. You can group and filter the entries just like any View and edit entries (e.g. mark an item as “Completed” or add a certain category). With the additional  column types and the connection with Flow this can be the tool of choice when collecting data from the organization is the starting point for a project or process.
There are no graphics by default, but PowerBI may be used if needed.
Many thanks to my former colleague Scott Lewis who pointed out the benefits of custom lists when combined with Forms and Flow.

SurveyMonkey is of course THE specialized tool for surveys. It has extensive help for your survey questions and many options. It is the only tool that can show columns of responses, which is nice to keep your survey compact. It allows you to change the chart type of the results if desired. However, the free version has a few annoying limitations and I personally find the “management” interface rather cluttered.
For large-scale complicated surveys where you need to analyze responses in-depth the paid version beats Microsoft Forms.

Google Forms is a solid modern tool. Apart from the “display form straight in an email” it does not have any remarkable features.

Hope this comparison is useful to you. Have I missed any that are important for you? Please let me know – also if it has helped to move your colleagues away from SurveyMonkey (free) or GoogleForms! 🙂

Image courtesy of Geralt on Pixabay

SharePoint Holmes and the Invisible Image

SH-invisible-man-154567_1280The case

“It is possible to show the person’s picture in a list, next to the name?”  the user asked me. “Of course”, I said, but it depends on the list and the definition of the column. Let’s have a look.”

The user did a screenshare with me and showed me the list. It contained a number of “People or Group” columns.

We checked the settings of the columns and it turned out he had used the default option, “Name (with presence)”.

SH-InvisibleImage-Default
The default option when you create a “Group or Person” column.

So I showed him there were more options and that he’d better select “Name (with picture and details)”.

SH-InvisibleImage-Namepicdetails
I suggested this option to make the picture show in the list

So he did, and he went back to the list. But no image was shown.

SH-InvisibleImage-ListModern
No image next to the name 😦

The investigation

  1. I checked the column again, as this was unexpected behaviour. Yes, that was the right setting.
  2. I also tried the other options, “Picture only” in various formats. But the image would not show.
  3. I was flabbergasted. Microsoft Office, especially in the Modern fashion, has such an obsession about pictures, images, icons and other visuals that I could not understand why the picture would not show up. I mean, I have to look at myself all day but SharePoint would refuse this?
  4. But then I thought, what about Classic View?

The solution

I switched to Classic View and there it was:

SH-InvisibleImage-Listclassic
This was what the user was looking for!

The user was happy and changed the Advanced Settings to make sure this list would always open in Classic View for all the site’s users.

I am not so happy, however. This was a modern site with a modern list and a perfectly legit column setting. Why is the picture not displayed in the Modern View, knowing the emphasis Microsoft places on visuals?
Please note it is the same with Styles and Totals – they only display in Classic View 😦
I have already added a warning to my SharePoint Style Counsel blog…

Additionally, over time I have grown an aversion to the Classic view as I think it looks cluttered.

So, does anyone know when can we expect these display options to be available in the Modern view?

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Image courtesy of OpenClipArtVectors on Pixabay

Forms or Survey – what are the settings?

Survey-SettingsIn my most recent blog I discussed the options for Questions and Answers in the various survey tools.

This time, I would like to take a look at the settings – what can you decide about your survey as a whole?

Which settings can you apply to your survey?

  • Permissions to create and manage a survey – can anyone do it or do you need special permissions? Can you hand a survey over to someone else?
  • Look and feel – can you use colours and add branding to the survey?
  • Who can respond and details about the responses.
  • How to start and stop collecting responses.
  • Custom thank-you message.
  • Whether you can easily copy your survey.

Where can you find the settings?

The settings in Forms can be found in the top right. The palette is for the theme, the … will lead you to the other settings.

Forms-wheresettings
The settings in Forms which will allow you to determine how your survey looks and works.

For the SharePoint survey/list you have some options in the Advanced Settings:

Forms-SPSurveyAdvanced
This is how to determine view-and-edit permissions for SharePoint Survey and List.

Forms-SPSurvey-GeneralSettings
This option is only available in the SharePoint Survey Settings under  “List name, description and navigation”.

For SurveyMonkey, you can find most of the settings in the “Design Survey” phase, with different options in the buttons on the left:

Forms-surveyMonkeywhere
In SurveyMonkey, the Design Survey link shows you the options available.

For Google Forms you look at the top right, where the palette will allow you to determine the look-and-feel and the gear wheel will show other settings to select:

Forms-gogglewhere
Where to find the settings in Google Forms.

Results

I have captured the results in the picture below. You can also view/download this as Excel. I have added this info as a separate tab in the same document as in my earlier post. You can use and edit it, but I would appreciate if you would mention my name if you share it outside of your organization.

Legend:

  • Green/Yes: Available by default, although it may have different names
  • Orange: Available with a workaround
  • Red/No: Not available

Formsorsurvey-ResultSettingswithheader
The comparison for the various settings available.

Conclusion

Again, all surveys have different options but the differences are relatively small between Microsoft Forms, Google Forms and SurveyMonkey.
SurveyMonkey has some interesting options, such as a limit on the number of responses, suggestions for questions, and the SurveyMonkey Genius which gives an estimated time to complete and suggestions for the setup of the survey. (Under “Preview and Score”)
The SharePoint options appear to be a different animal altogether. They have their uses though, as mentioned in my earlier post.

Special Thanks!

During the writing of this post some more info about Forms was made available:

Thanks to David Lozzi for blogging about changing the colour scheme of a Form, which I have done by accident without realizing its effect. 🙂
Thanks to Noah Sparks for sharing the info about a recently introduced option:  transferring ownership of a Form. 

Experience the surveys yourself! (and help me)

You can still check out and complete the surveys below, to have an idea of their look-and-feel. Please do not use real data, as I will use the inputs only for demonstrating how results will be displayed:

Forms

SurveyMonkey  (will close after 100 responses – limitation of the free version)

Google Forms

In my next post I will focus on collecting the responses and how results are being displayed.

Image courtesy of Geralt on Pixabay.

Forms or Survey – that’s the question

feedbackA few years ago I wrote a post “What SharePoint can learn from SurveyMonkey” and it is now time to revisit.

With the introduction of Forms in Office365 I was curious how the various survey tools compare. As a SharePoint List can also be used to collect information, I have added that as well. It has some special characteristics that could make it a good choice in some scenarios.
I have some personal experience with Google Forms, and Forms is rumoured to be based on that, so I have added that to the mix as well.

So these are the 5 options compared:

  • Office365 Forms
  • SharePoint Survey
  • SharePoint List
  • SurveyMonkey (free version)
  • Google Forms

What did I do?

I have created a 10-question survey based on the 8 basic Q&A options of Forms.
Then I recreated the same survey in the other tools. In cases where there was not a straightforward solution, I tried to find a workaround.
I have not applied branching logic, as I already have a lot of information to share.

In a next post I will look at the general settings per survey. Can you change the colour scheme, can you add a logo, how do you start or stop a survey, etc.

Finally, and this will also be another post, I will compare the ways you can see and manage results. How are results displayed, can you export them to a spreadsheet, is there any way you can filter results or have different options to display them?

Questions and Answers

Forms has 8 Q and A types, but some of them can be used in different ways – e.g. a Choice question can be a one choice only (radio button) or a multiple choice (check boxes), and the Text can be a short text, a long text, and a number.

The Net Promoter Score has recently been added but I personally think it is superfluous (it can be replaced with a Rating scale) and also annoying to receive. However, there is something special about it which I will share later. 😉

Experience them yourself! (and help me)

Please check out and complete the surveys below, to have an idea of their look-and-feel. Please do not use real data, as I will use the inputs only for demonstrating how results will be displayed:

Forms

SurveyMonkey  (will close after 100 responses – limitation of the free version)

Google Forms

Results

I have captured the results in the picture below. You can also view/download this as Excel. You can use and edit it, but I would appreciate if you would mention my name if you share it outside of your organization.

Legend:

  • Green/Yes: Available by default, although it may have different names
  • Orange: Available with a workaround
  • Red/No: Not available

SurveyComparison-QandA
The results of the comparison of Question and Answers.

Conclusion

No two Survey tools are alike. Duh!

In general, the SharePoint options appear to be most different and the most limited, but they can be useful, especially when used within an organization, for which they have been developed:

  • They have more Q and A types (e.g. currency, People and Groups lookup, a lookup from an existing list, Managed Metadata) which may be needed now and then. The List also has Calculations and Site Columns to select from.
  • They can detect unique values, which is essential in case you are collecting unique numbers, such as machine, procedure or invoice numbers.

SurveyMonkey has a few annoying limitations in the free version, such as max. 10 questions, the lack of a “number” option or the absence of a description field for each question. But it also has some very nice things:

  • Add answer options in bulk to Choice questions – nice when you have many answer options
  • Display a large number of answer options in columns rather than a long list
  • Ask to “tick at least x options” in a multiple-choice question

There are some differences between Forms, SurveyMonkey and Google Forms. But in general, you can create decent survey questions with all of them.

What are your thoughts? Or do you prefer to wait until I have completed the comparison?

Image courtesy of Geralt on Pixabay.