Creating surveys with Microsoft Forms - Part 1

by Lea Sophie Ladiges on August 30, 2021

For technical communicators, it is not always easy to understand the needs and tasks of the target groups for which we write technical documentation or develop technical solutions.

If your company uses Microsoft Office 365 with a license that covers Microsoft Forms, you can use this tool to quickly create electronic surveys. It only takes a few minutes for your target audience to answer the questions, and you gain valuable insights for your projects.

You only need the Office license to create a survey; the users do not need one for answering a questionnaire.

We have tested the software and would like to share with you what we have learned.

Question types

There are eight question types, each of which fulfills a different function. Let's take a quick look at them, using a survey for a planned summer party as an example:

  • Choice: This is a typical multiple-choice question. You can decide whether several answers or only one may be selected.

  • Date: Requires the input of a date and can be useful for a question like: "When should the summer party take place?” You can choose the best date from all the suggestions sent in.
  • Text: Ask your target group to write their own free text response to a question.
  • Ranking: Use this type to create a ranking. People can rank the different response options according to priority or frequency, for example.
  • Likert: Invented by and named after Rensis Likert, this question type allows us to solicit attitudes and opinions about statements. Respondents agree or disagree with the statements to a greater or lesser degree on a given multilevel response scale.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): The NPS is good for finding out how high a probability is. NPS provides a scale from 0 (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely). You can change the labeling, if you want.
  • Rating: This type is particularly suitable for questions about personal opinions. The default is a five-level scale of stars. You can change the icon and the number of levels.
  • File Upload: Requests the upload of a file from the person answering the question, such as a word file, a PDF, pictures, or videos.

Note that uploaded files and names are stored in OneDrive and are visible to the person who creates the survey. More on the subject of data protection below.

Doing more with less
The large amount of question types tempts us to use as many as possible to select the appropriate format for each question. Be cautious, however: If a survey contains too many different question formats, it can quickly become overwhelming. Our advice here: Less is more.

By the way: You can mark any question as "Required" to force an answer.

Branches for different versions

Use branches to create multiple small versions of a survey. This feature is most useful for a "choice": After you create the question, click on “More Forms settings” in the upper right corner and then click "Branching". Based on the answer the person chose, you can determine which question should appear next. You must have already created the question to select it from this menu.

If you create multiple mini versions of a survey, you can tailor them exactly to the different audiences. That’s why the person answering will only see the questions you have designated for the "path" you have chosen.

Thematic sections

If you want to create a longer questionnaire with several questions, you can insert sections. This way, the program displays the questions on separate pages instead of all the questions one after another on one page. For each section, you can add a title and a description, for example, explaining which aspect or topic the next questions deal with.

A progress bar also appears at the bottom of the page, reflecting the survey's progress.

Reach your desired target group quickly

Let's say you want to launch a survey about your project work. Instead of contacting each person individually, you can send your survey to your contacts using the “Share” feature. The recipients click on the link or scan the QR code to go directly to the questionnaire.

Who can fill in the forms?

Under "Who can fill in this form" you can add access restrictions and determine privacy measures. If you want to keep a survey completely anonymous, then select the option "Anyone with the link...". You can then share the link by mail, for example. With this option, Microsoft Forms does not store any information about the people who answered the survey.

However, if your questionnaire contains a "file upload" question, you cannot select the option "Anyone with the link can respond". This is because the option is anonymous in itself. Since the file upload saves the name, you will have to choose another setting or, alternatively, delete the question.

Monitor trends and view results

To see a summary of the responses to your survey, click on the "Responses" tab. The program opens the summary on the same page, which is very convenient. You can see trends and which direction they are taking, and you see critical answers. The results are displayed in colored diagrams. When you click "View results", you can go through the individual questionnaires and find correlations between the answers.

Review the answers in an Excel spreadsheet

You find further calculations and statistical information in an Excel spreadsheet (“Open in Excel”), which Microsoft Forms automatically generates in the background and regularly synchronizes with incoming answers. The spreadsheet is saved in the same folder as the survey. The entered questions are defined as headers of the Excel table.

Provided that you have selected the option "Anyone with the link can respond " in the survey settings, the answers will be stored anonymously in the Excel spreadsheet. Thus, as mentioned above, no conclusions about the person are possible, since each submission of the questionnaire is assigned an ID, a date and time.

We hope that our insights help you create your own survey or poll in Microsoft Forms. In the second part of this mini blog series, you can expect a comparison between Microsoft Forms and Forms in Microsoft Teams and limitations that we noticed using Forms in Microsoft Teams.

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