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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

For asking people questions without talking to them. To help you find out things about them or help them access something you are offering. Sometimes these are called ‘survey tools’ but they can do many other things too.

What they do

Online forms help you create forms and then put them on the internet for people to fill in. They offer many different question types so you can construct different types of forms depending on what you need to do. Question types include open ended, multiple choice, rating scales and others.

Each form has a unique link. When you give this link to your users they see a copy of your form to fill in. Everyone can use the same link. But each time anyone fills in a form the tool saves what they said as a unique set of results. Then it displays these results so you can look at them individually or get an overview.

You can also include guidance and messages in your form so you are giving your users information at the same time as asking them for it.

Popular platforms

There are many online form tools on the internet. Most are similar and offer free and paid versions. Paid versions have more features or allow them to be used with more people.

Common tools:

  • Google forms
  • Typeform
  • Survey Monkey

Things to consider

What you want to use it for

Online forms have many uses. Most commonly charities use them to:

  • Get feedback on a service or anything else
  • Give your users a way to sign up for a service or event
  • Help users find out if they are eligible for a service (with a custom message at the end)
  • Run polls and quizzes

Think about what you want to use it for, and who the forms will be aimed at.

How you ask questions

It’s important to think about what you want to find out and how you will ask your questions. Bad question wording makes answering much harder. Too many bad or irrelevant questions and your users will become confused or frustrated. Then they are likely to abandon the form.

Think about when to use open questions and how to balance different question types. Think about how you approach sensitive topics like gender or ethnicity.

Form length

You need to think about how long it will take users to fill in your form. Lots of open ended questions can be tiring and off-putting. Think about why they would or wouldn’t be motivated to fill in all your questions and make the form a length they can manage. If it is too long they will leave.

In general put the easiest questions at the end, including personal details.

User device

It’s worth checking how the form looks on different devices. It may look different on an android phone compared to an iPhone, compared to a laptop. For example Typeform usually gets better engagement on a mobile than other platforms.

Think about how you make the form visually pleasing to the eye and easy to follow. Good design and clear layout will help your users feel comfortable.

Getting it to your users

While it’s easy to share a form’s link you still need to get it to the right users at the right time. Will you be sending it by email or social media? Or will it be a static link from your website or during another interaction they have with your service? Will they actually be able to answer your questions at this time or should you wait? Or will they need to answer it before they gain access to a piece of information or an event?

Sometimes adding a form link to an automated email or newsletter can make sure users always get asked to fill it in at the same time.

Free or paid

Free versions are useful but, apart from Google Forms, are limited by either number of surveys or number of respondents. If you want more surveys or more respondents than the limit (usually several thousand) you will need to pay a monthly or annual fee.

Some free versions let you download respondents' answers as a spreadsheet and some require you to pay.

Charities using this tool

Breakthrough mentoring used Google Forms for consent forms for parents and for young people.

Southside Isolation Supporters link to google form from their website and social media to collect details of people needing support, or volunteering to help

Last modified on 26 July 2022
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