You can create really good looking surveys with Microsoft Forms these days, just by using colours and images.
There are 4 places to add an image:
You can use a standard theme, which will add a predetermined background image (optional) and colour scheme to your Form.
If you want to use your own theme, click Theme and then the +. This will open a screen allowing you to upload an image and/or set a background colour for texts and buttons.
2. Forms title
You can add a small image to the title and introduction text of your form.
You can add an image to a question. You can choose between small and large.
If you want to create a new page for a new question or set of questions, you can use a section. A section header can also contain an image, large or small. It behaves like an image in a question.
Size requirements for images – a test
I recently received a question from one of my users, who wanted to know the size requirements for images in Forms. The background image she used turned out to be a bit blurry. Of course, and fortunately, you no longer have to use exact dimensions in Office 365, but not every size works well in every application, so I did some tests.
I photographed a few scenes with my iPhone, using square, landscape and portrait orientation. (4:3 aspect ratio except for the square of course)
I resized them using good old Paint, making a 50, 38, 25, 10 and 5% of the original. All images were 72 dpi.
Then I created a Form with 2 questions and one section.
I started with the 5% size and uploaded this image as background, as title, as question (large and small) and as section image.
Whenever the image displayed blurry, I repeated the exercise with the 10% and so on, until I had a good idea of what worked.
The background needs an image of at least 750 pixels wide, but 1000 is better.
The orientation of the image (square, landscape or portrait) does not matter. The background focuses on the center of the picture.
In the title you can use an image as small as 150 pixels wide. It does not display a lot of detail, so you can get away with a small image.
The height of the image display is fixed, and the orientation of the image does not matter much.
If you use a small picture in your question or section, go for at least 150 px wide.
Use landscape where possible, as it will keep your form shorter. Check out the differences in the screenshots with the background, above.
For a large picture in a question or section, at least 400 pixels wide is best.
Please note that landscape pictures cover the whole width of the forms, and the question is shown on top. This makes for a very nice image, but as it is blown up a lot compared to the other formats, you really need to make sure the image is sharp.
If you use the same image in every section, you can create a nicely consistent experience. (But do not go overboard, every new section is a click!)
Use landscape imagery where possible – it just displays nicer
Keep in mind that different purposes need different image sizes. If your image is too small, do not use it as background or the large image.
150-400-750 is just a guideline – with a different aspect ratio in your photos and pictures, more dpi and different viewing screen size, you may find that other sizes work better for you. And perhaps you WANT the background to be a bit blurry!
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
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.
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.
Google Forms allows you to add the survey questions directly into an email, which is very convenient.
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.
I am sharing some screenshots of remarkable things.
The Net Promotor Score looks special:
This is the SharePoint Survey, in case you had forgotten what it looks like 🙂
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.
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:
Google Forms has nothing special, but it looks solid and modern.
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:
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! 😦
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.
Google Forms results look like this:
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.
Green/Yes: Available by default, although it may have different names
Orange: Available with a workaround
Red/No: Not available
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.
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! 🙂
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.
For the SharePoint survey/list you have some options in the Advanced Settings:
For SurveyMonkey, you can find most of the settings in the “Design Survey” phase, with different options in the buttons on the left:
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:
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.
Green/Yes: Available by default, although it may have different names
Orange: Available with a workaround
Red/No: Not available
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.
During the writing of this post some more info about Forms was made available:
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:
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:
SurveyMonkey (free version)
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:
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.
Green/Yes: Available by default, although it may have different names
Orange: Available with a workaround
Red/No: Not available
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?
Most questions I receive about SharePoint surveys are permission issues (it is not extremely intuitive that you need to give all your audience Contribute permissions) and the error message that tells people you can not enter this survey twice.
But this time the issue was different.
The site owner had created a survey in which each item had to be completed by two people. When the first person had entered their part, they would send the link to their entry to the second person, who was supposed to enter the rest.
However, the second person could not open the link and got an error message.
“Sorry, something went wrong. No item exists at [location]. It may have been deleted or renamed by another user”.
When that second person went to the site and opened the survey, they could see that an item had been entered but when they clicked “Show all responses” they received a message that there were no responses.
Confusion all around!
I checked the permissions, of course.
The second person had Contribute permissions to the survey, so that was OK. Everyone could see and edit all items, which is a bit scary, but as this was a controlled process with a limited audience, that could work.
People could enter multiple responses, so that was also not a limitation that could cause this issue.
I checked the survey itself. It had some branching. I completed the first part of the survey and clicked Save and close. My entry was saved.
I went to the survey and saw the item and could open and edit it.
I looked at the 2nd part of the survey, which had many required responses and that gave me some ideas to test…
As it turns out,
You are unable to save a straightforward Survey item (with no branches) if it contains questions where you have to provide an answer. We know that, it is the same as with List items.
A survey with branching however, will save answers, even if you have not entered all mandatory fields. You will get a message and the item will be saved as “not complete”.
People can only see the completed items of someone else. As the item is “not complete” because the second part with mandatory questions is not completed, second person Mystery Guest can not open my item, even though she can see there is an item and she has all the permissions.
When I removed the “requiredness” of the answers of the 2nd part, the survey was marked as “complete” upon saving, and then the 2nd person could open and edit the 2nd part of the survey.
I discussed my findings with the site owner and suggested to make the answers in the second part of the survey no longer mandatory. I showed him how to create views in a survey to help getting the second part completed.
That worked for him. Case closed!
New experience for Surveys!
I also saw the Survey in Modern SharePoint. I appreciate the new consistency with other lists, but I can imagine that people will be lost without that well-known look-and-feel. But then, I expect that Forms will make the Survey obsolete soon, anyway.
I wanted to share a screenshot, but things are not very stable yet and I kept getting errors and the Classic experience. As soon as I have captured it, I will share!
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.
I have always hated SurveyMonkey. Not that I knew it well, but out of principle: I try to help my colleagues work with SharePoint, and the more SharePoint they see, the faster they will get familiar with it. Using a survey on another platform is downright confusing.
But some time ago I looked at SurveyMonkey, to find out the reason of its popularity. The Basic (free) version will be the largest competitor for SharePoint in organizations, so I have limited my comparison to that version.
What is good about SurveyMonkey?
It is a very nice tool, if only because the larger font and sharper contrast are easier to read for me :-).
There are more options in terms of design (themes, images between the questions), they have a few different question types (a.o. ranking), you can draw from a reservoir of example surveys and “bias-free questions” and you can randomize the answer options.
That may not be a surprise, since SurveyMonkey is a “one trick pony”, focusing on surveys, while SharePoint is more of an “all-rounder”.
Which functionalities should be in SharePoint?
Still, there are some useful SurveyMonkey functionalities that I would expect in SharePoint:
SharePoint knows the date and time, so why does it not have a “cut-off date/time”, after which it is no longer possible to fill in the survey?
SharePoint can count, so why is there no option to stop responses when the number of replies exceeds a certain number? How useful that would be for registrations for events or trainings with a limited number of places!
Why can’t you add a description to the questions in SharePoint? You can do that in any list or library, so why not in a survey?
One point where SharePoint could make a big step forward is in the multiple-response questions. SurveyMonkey allows you to show the answers in columns, which need less vertical space.
In SharePoint, answers are all in one column.
Now, let’s take a look at the way the results are shown. SurveyMonkey provides you with a nice, clear graphical overview.
While SharePoint is a mess, so you always need to do a manual scoring afterwards.
Does anyone know if this has improved in SP2013? If not, would someone please forward this post to Microsoft so they know what to work on for SP2016. 🙂
In favour of SharePoint
SharePoint also wins on a number of points:
You can use any number of questions and receive any number of responses. (Not that your audience will be too happy with too many questions). The free account of SurveyMonkey allows you up to 10 questions and 100 responses.
You can send respondents to a “Thank you” or “Next steps” page after completion, by configuring the link you send to your audience. (described in this post-scroll to 2f) SurveyMonkey offers that in a paid version only.
You don’t have to log in to make a survey or to see the results.
You can use a “lookup”(existing content in the site), currency and select “People and Groups” as answer options.
SurveyMonkey allows you to export to spreadsheet per question only. Exporting the complete survey needs the paid version.
SharePoint allows branching (the next question depends on the answer you gave to the previous question), while SurveyMonkey only provides that in the paid version.
Your survey has more context if it is in your own Team Site.
The data are stored in your own environment.
If you know other good arguments in favour of the SharePoint survey, please add them below!
What is the verdict?
I understand the attraction of SurveyMonkey. It is easy to use and it has more visual possibilities. (Now that comes as a shock :-)) It also does the multiple-choice questions much better, and it has a ranking question type.
However, for the average in-company survey, SharePoint will do the trick. It will be one step forward in providing employees with their “daily dose of SharePoint”.
And in those cases where I have found that the SharePoint survey was too limited for a certain purpose, the free SurveyMonkey tool was not an option either.
Sometimes the demands of the business required a SharePoint list or an InfoPath form to collect data, or even an Excel file, because there were too many dependencies or people wanted to have too many different slice-and-dices. In those cases, the Basic version of SurveyMonkey provided no solace. We would have needed a paid version or an even more advanced tool.
Does this sound familiar? How do you handle surveys in your SharePoint environment?
Are you interested in what all employees think about your company’s latest product launch, or do you want to know which date would be preferred for that training session? Regardless of your role in the organization, I am sure that you will have asked your team members for feedback or data. How do you usually find out the answers; do you send an email, perhaps even with an Excel file attached? Why not try using your SharePoint intranet? Collecting and managing data is so much easier!There are different ways to enable and collect feedback, depending on your needs and your experience. Are you looking for individual opinions or do you want to know if version A is preferred over version B?
1. Displaying an email address on an intranet page.
This is often used on web pages on your intranet: “If you have questions or remarks, please contact Firstname.firstname.lastname@example.org.” When clicked, this will open an email.
For a little more sophistication, you could add the name as a hyperlink. “If you have questions or remarks, contact Firstname Lastname.
Even shorter is a link called “Feedback” with that same hyperlink. Once clicked, the sender will see the addressee of the email anyway.
If you want to add some visual interest create a hyperlinked button. (In a Content Editor Web part, add an image, then select the image and insert a hyperlink).
You can even pre-populate the email subject to make sure the addressee knows immediately that this is feedback from the website.
This is suitable for receiving ongoing general feedback about intranet pages, team sites or online manuals and policies. And please do not forget to check the name and the link on a regular basis!
2. Commenting to a Blog.
Because the commenting option in a blog is very visible, you may encourage commenting more than with a button or a link. People comment on a specific blog post and generally not on the entire blog. This may be very good for getting feedback about news and blog posts. These comments will help you to understand which post subjects cause strong opinions and which not.
Comments are stored in a separate list in your site. You can treat them just like other list items: add a workflow (e.g. to review) or create views.
3. SharePoint Survey.
SharePoint has a decent survey functionality, which allows you many question-and-answer types, a graphical representation of results, different routes depending on answers given, exporting results to Excel for further analysis, configuration of a “thank-you page” and what not. It will suit most purposes for qualitative and quantitative feedback.
If you really want to implement SharePoint in your organization, try to educate people in using SharePoint, and avoid external tools like SurveyMonkey. Like all “one-trick-ponies”, SurveyMonkey has more specific functionalities but it also means data are stored elsewhere and you have to log on when creating a survey. SharePoint will suit most needs perfectly well.
4. SharePoint List. While I personally think a Survey is generally better for a short-time activity burst, a SharePoint list (generally a Custom List or Issue Tracking List) is better for collecting feedback, such as ideas or complaints, over time. A list allows you to add a description to the questions, you can use a workflow to manage responses and you can create different views to group and manage your data over time. It does not create graphs, however. (But you can create a chart if you export your list items to Excel).
5. InfoPath. An InfoPath form is a beautiful combination of an Excel document (customizable design, printable, calculations and conditional formatting) and a List item (transparency, lightweight). It can be used when a regular List or Survey does not have enough functionality, such as design or many calculations. I would suggest using it only when you really have no other options. It can be quite cumbersome to create, edit and optimize, and I have personally experienced many access issues.
6. Discussion Board.
If you are looking for a no-nonsense way to ask questions and generate answers and opinions, the discussion board is a good idea. In general, everyone will be able to start a discussion, so it is more “democratic” than a blog, where questions can only be initiated by the blogger. On the other hand, while a blog can exist without comments, a discussion board with no comments is not viable. Generally, I would use this either as a Question-and-Answer board for specific networks, or when it is actively endorsed and promoted by management. But perhaps my own experiences with a discussion board play a part in that.
7. Poll. A Poll is not a standard SharePoint Poll functionality, but many web parts are available. (Kwiz, Bamboo), most of which use a SharePoint survey as a basis.
You use a poll when you want to ask one question with a number of pre-defined answers. It is generally very visible and is also very suitable for lighter subjects. It is great for engagement because it is inviting to click it. A Poll is generally anonymous (unlike the other tools) and respondents are rewarded with the results immediately after voting.
8. Star Ratings.
In SharePoint 2010 and later you can rate an article or a blog post by giving it a number of stars. It is very interactive and makes it very easy for your audience to vote, but it is not always clear what people vote for: do they like the article for the subject, do they think it is well written? It is also not shown how many people have voted. So it is not so clear how you should act on the results.
8 1/2 : Outlook Voting Options. This only counts for a half, since it is not exactly SharePoint, but most organizations that have SharePoint, will have Outlook as their email programme. If you have only one question with predefined answers and your audience is not too large, you can use the “Voting Buttons” that are in Outlook. (When you have a new email open, click Options > Voting Buttons.) This may be easier to set up for yourself, and easier to answer for your audience than a Survey. You will have to count all the responses though! Please note this is not available in Outlook Web Apps.
How have you used SharePoint to collect ideas, opinions and data? Have I missed something? Looking forward to your suggestions! (This Blog has a comments box :-))