Monday, 12 March 2012

Further adventures in Google Forms

Image from Jason Tester, under a CC
Attribution-No Derivative Works license

After my initial fumblings with Google Forms last week, I managed to use them to solve a problem my wife was having at work. She needed users to view a YouTube video, but to somehow log who’d actually viewed it.

My solution was to point users to a Google Form rather than straight to the YouTube video. The form would have one question – what is your name? – that was mandatory. Once this was completed, the confirmation screen was edited to give the link to the unlisted YouTube video. So users get the link to the video, only after their names are logged in a spreadsheet.

Of course it’s not infallible – users could give a false name or just enter gibberish into the text box, or share the YouTube link around with others without them going through the form process. But generally it seems like quite a good system, and easy to set up, as long as the data isn't absolutely essential to collect. (The problem with false names is solved here at the University of Sheffield, as we have the option to automatically log uni email addresses of respondents.)

Click here to see how it works (note, this isn’t the video my wife needed users to see…).

What would be nice would be the ability to customise the confirmation page further, with the YouTube video embedded into it, or even a redirect straight to the YouTube page. You can add HTML tags for text formatting, and web addresses are converted to hyperlinks, but you can’t seem to add any more code in there.

The inability to customise the Forms is probably its biggest downside. There are a few prettier templates to choose from other than the typically soulless Google default (one of them used above), but as well as editing the confirmation form, it would be great to simply add something as simple as corporate branding or insert pictures.

You can do these things if you paste the source HTML from your live form into another webpage (which can include a Google Site, of course).  This can be edited by anyone who knows their way round HTML, with more advanced features added with various bits of CSS and JavaScript (some examples here). But this starts to overcomplicate things, requires knowledge of coding (more than I have before anyone asks!), and there’s two big problems with it – you have to edit your HTML again if your question set changes at all, and you’re at the mercy of Google continuing to do things in the same ways as when you grabbed the HTML sourcecode of your live form. There is also a grey area as to whether changing the interface considerably would violate Google’s terms and conditions, which read...

Don’t misuse our Services. For example, don’t interfere with our Services or try to access them using a method other than the interface and the instructions that we provide.

So in conclusion – I’m continuing to come across useful applications for Forms, but getting frustrated by how hard it is to customise the forms and confirmation page.



  1. Interesting post. Would never have thought of using forms as a gateway to a video. Also thanks for cat video (ahem) and forms customisation resource.

    Who was the author here by the way?

  2. It's Pete - it's a bit tucked away in the grey bar under the blog post, Paul. Will have to think about how to make it more obvious who's blogged!



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