If you’ve ever tried to set up a form in SharePoint for a particular purpose or goal, you know it has historically been a frustrating and dicey experience to just get one set up out-of-the-box.
In SharePoint’s 17-year history, there hasn’t been a bulletproof, easy-to-use form solution that non-technical users can get up and running in a smooth fashion. The conventional experience has generally involved scouring the internet for answers, consulting the colleague who has loose knowledge around InfoPath, calling everyone in the tech department, complaining to your manager, attending lunch-and-learns hosted by vendors who up-sell the crap out of their products, and even trying to jimmy something together yourself when you’re at your wit’s end. You’re basically ready to call Batman just to get a simple, damn, form on your team site. I just want a poll! Or a survey! Or just a friendly form to provide feedback that looks good!
Finally, SharePoint seems ready for everyday users to set up a decent form experience. We are wrapping up the form building days that includes profuse sweating, teeth-grinding and stress-inducing decision-making that at times make it seem not worth the time or effort.
This blog post is the first in a three part series about form options for using in SharePoint – and covering the forms options that can be part of your larger Office 365 user experience.
The Microsoft Forms Web Part
Thankfully, users have access to Microsoft Forms, a handy addition to Office 365 that lets users actually build their own forms in its’ own app.
Microsoft Forms was initially released for Office 365 for Education users, but was expanded to business and enterprise subscribers as an app preview. Microsoft will move it from preview to general release with expanding functionality in the coming months.
How to Add it
When you edit a page in SharePoint, you can add a web part simply called “Microsoft Forms”. It lets you add a new form, or add an existing one you may have already created. Just provide the link to the Form from Microsoft Forms (when you are on the form, click “Share” to get the web link).
What kind of forms can I build?
If this is your first form, it’s really easy to get started. Through an intuitive and easy-to-use interface, you can create simple questionnaires using field controls that include options, short answers, long answers, dates, ratings, rankings, and likerts (scaling responses). Creating surveys, polls, and other types of forms are easily done and don’t require involving an army of super users.
You can up-shift your Form experience into next gear by using them with Microsoft Flow (workflows for Office 365 content). However, this blog post is specifically about the SharePoint web part experience (in the meantime, one can find examples off Form workflows on the Microsoft Flow site).
You can also change your theme (background) on the form, target your form to to just your team or anyone with a link, set timed responses, and see basic form metrics (again, beyond the scope of this blog post). Forms can also be accessed from the desktop or from mobile, complimenting the multiple device environments that are becoming more prevalent in today’s modern workplaces.
What are some examples of how to use it with SharePoint?
A few examples you could use Forms for with SharePoint include:
- If you have an Office 365 intranet and you want to add a daily or weekly poll on your front page;
- Rate the success of an initiative or program happening in the company;
- Gauge feedback for a team or department event so you can prepare for the one next year (e.g. christmas parties, golf tournaments, etc.)
- Collect responses from external partners on suggestions for an upcoming project.
What should I be aware of?
Forms is a great entry-level integration feature to get form usage into SharePoint. As the Office 365 platform deepens integration between apps, there is a natural fit to have Microsoft Forms integrate with SharePoint – especially if you are an education, business or enterprise-level user. This is great for team leads and communicators who don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of investing in InfoPath or third-party vendors like Nintex or Survey Monkey – especially if you’re already paying for an Office 365 subscription and your form requirements aren’t complex.
The downside is that if you do want to take the form to the next level, it’s not the most powerful form builder out there. If you want to do crazy things with forms and do more complicated workflows, functions, or calculation, Forms is not your best bet – InfoPath or PowerApps might be better options. However, this is the point – Forms is meant for normal, day-to-day users that don’t want to go to town on; it’s the “lightweight” choice of the bunch. And if you’re not expecting more than 5000 responses, this option can make sense for your organization.
Additionally, users outside of the U.S. or Europe who collect sensitive data should be aware that responses gathered in Microsoft Forms are stored on servers only in the U.S. or Europe. Therefore, if location-based information storage and regulatory frameworks are your priority, then consider your options for using Forms carefully.
Part 2 of this Forms series will be coming next week . . . We’ll look at PowerApps as a form solution (the upcoming big-boy app for no-code application building).