Why would you want to add a Google Docs Form to your blog? Well, it’s a great way to collect data from your blog or website visitors. Let me set this up with some history.
Long ago, people created static websites by uploading text and images to a web server. When owners of the website wanted the information updated more often, they would have to edit a text file or a billion of them depending how large their website was.
If you wanted to put a form on your website, you had to create the form in a text editor and hook it all up to a database that would collect the submitted data. This involved quite a bit of knowledge on running and managing databases as well as writing the code to interact with the form and the database.
Now, you can still do all that today when you want a lot of control over a website, but there are websites and tools that make it a lot easier to collect data from your site visitors.
As website technologies matured, database driven sites came along. Database driven sites are dynamically created, which means a web page is created “on-the-fly” when a visitor browses to your site. It does this by putting the pieces of a web page together from the information stored in a database.
With blogs being a type of website that are easy to setup and maintain, and database driven, you still run into scenarios where you want to provide more functionality than was originally intended for blogs. Collecting data via a form on your blog is one of those tasks. Google Docs Forms is a great way to provide that functionality – for FREE!!
Enter Google Docs. Browse over to Google Docs and create an account if you don’t already have a Google account. When you land on your main page where you work with documents do the following:
- Click on New
- Click on Form
At this point, you’ll be presented with a form designer to design a form to collect data. Below is an example of the form I created for this blog post.
With the form designer you can add fields one at a time using a button called “Add question”. As you create fields you select what type of field it is – a text field, paragraph, multiple choice, check boxes, lists, a scan of 1-n field, etc.
While you are creating a form, you can preview it with a link that is placed on the bottom of the form designer.
When you’re all finished designing the form and you’re ready to put it on your blog, you select the menu choice More choices -> Embed. You get a link to your form in HTML format. You embed Google Forms on your blog or website and voila – you have a form to collect data with. Pretty cool.
But how does it store the data? It will be written to a Google Docs Spreadsheet under your Google account. The spreadsheet gets created automatically and data will be added to it as visitors fill out and submit the information. You can also share this document out for others to review.
After a visitor submits the data, a thank you page within your blog page appears, which is nice because it doesn’t navigate away from your blog page.
2/14/09 Update: Here’s a link to what the output looks like.
A cool thing you can do is automatically display the results on your blog. There’s quite a few nice features that Google Docs provides so make sure you subscribe to my blog to find out more about Google Docs and Google Docs Forms in future articles.