This post was originally published on my weekly tips blog which you can get in your inbox every Friday via email by registering here.

There are a lot of us who at one point or another need to collect information from a number of different people. Traditionally, you send out an email asking for the information you want. Then the ‘fun’ begins…a flood of email replies overwhelm your inbox…at some point you have to take a trip to the copy & paste rodeo so you can consolidate everyone’s answers into a single place so you can make sense of it all.  It is painful and time consuming.

Today, I’ll tell you how you can say good bye to those overloaded inboxes and the copy & paste-apalooza and make the whole process quick and painless. The secret is to use a web form that will automatically collect all the responses for you in a nice, neat spreadsheet. Once you’ve setup your questions all you have to do is sit back and watch the data roll in, while sipping a nice, warm cup of coffee (or whatever drink you prefer). Easy peezy – here are a couple nice, free options.

These online survey tools let other people fill out a form—like a sign-up sheet or questionnaire—where you can see it all in one place online. You can create a survey, send everyone a link and all the responses are compiled for you, automatically in a spreadsheet.

Google Docs Form

1. Go to Google Drive at drive.google.com.

2. In the new Drive, click New in the top left, hover over More, and chooseGoogle Forms.

( In the older version of Drive, click the Create button in the top left, thenForm.)

In the form template that opens, you can add any questions you’d like. You can also organize your form by adding headers and dividing your form into several pages. Learn more about editing your form.

One of my favorite things about Google forms is that you can set it to notify you when people respond.  Choose Tools – > Notification Rulesand select the option that says Notify me when “a user submits a form.” You can also set how frequently you would like to be notified – if you have created a “Contact Me” form, the “email right away” may be a good choice but for mass polls and surveys,  the daily digest option might be a better choice.

See it in action and take this sample form for a test drive

GoogleForm

 

Another good option that works very much the same way as the Google forms, is available using Excel Online.

Excel Online

You’ll need a free Microsoft One Drive account

1. Sign-in to One Drive

2. Near the top of the screen, click Create, and then click Excel survey. You’ll get a form that walks you through creating your survey.

ExcelSurvey

3. Anytime you want to work with your survey to edit or share it, just click the Survey button on the ribbon.

Survey

See it in action and take a sample Excel form for a test drive

ExcelForm

 

The possible uses for these forms is virtually endless:

  • Include the link in your elearning courses to gather questions and comments
  • Use it for event/course sign-ups and registrations
  • Collect email addresses for newsletters
  • Add it to your website to use as a contact form
  • Many,  many more…what are yours?