Best free online survey tools

Need to take a quick snapshot of customer opinion? Barry Collins rates three online survey services

Google Forms 

Rating: 3 stars

Google Forms a little-known part of the company's Google Drive offering is the only service on test here that offers all of its survey and reporting tools completely free of charge. The "Birthday Balloons" and "Cookies" templates on offer when you create a new form might suggest this isn't a serious business tool, but choose one of the more sedate templates and insert a company logo at the top of the form and it looks perfectly professional.

Survey form creation is straightforward, and in less than 15 minutes we created a three-page, 10-question survey with many different types of question. It doesn't have as wide a range of question types as its rivals, but it covers most bases: customers can be asked to choose from a list of options, rate something out of five/ten, enter free text into an answer box, and much more.

It's also simple to apply question logic, diverting respondents to a certain page of the survey if they answer "yes" or "no" to a particular question; SurveyMonkey charges for this feature.

Once a survey is finished, there are options to embed the form into a website, or share the link via Facebook, Twitter or Google+, although both the rivals on test here offer better social tools that embed surveys into Facebook Pages, for example.

Google's reporting tools are well presented, providing a concise one-page summary of the responses to your questions using graphs that are appropriate to the type of question, although there's no option to change the chart type or manipulate the data. One particular disappointment is that Google fails to provide an average when respondents are asked to rate something out of ten, for example, sometimes making it difficult to see which of a number of options is the more popular. Text answers are rather lumped together in one mass, too, although a full spreadsheet of the responses can be exported as a .csv file for deeper analysis in Excel or other software.    

In summary, Google Forms is the least sophisticated of the tools on test here, but it's unlimited, simple to use, and a great way to get a short survey out of the door quickly. 

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