Squeezing a little more formatting out of Microsoft Forms

As it stands today, Microsoft Forms is quite limited in its customization capabilities: with changing the background to a custom image only being released in recent weeks, you can select a theme or create your own. Forms will continue to grow and adapt and will eventually offer the necessary level of customizations we need. I hope it will eventually compete against the likes of SurveyMonkey, TypeForm, and others.

What’s available today?

Consider the following form:

microsoft forms standard survey.png

I used one of the fun backgrounds and set the header image, that’s about it. My problem is that this survey is 20 questions, and in this format, it gets little monotonous.

Below are some tricks I used to help make the form feel a wee bit easier to digest.

Adding Paging to Forms

Paging isn’t available in Forms yet, but we can fake it out. One of my colleagues (Venetia, she’s not even an O365 expert) showed me this one. Users can be so resourceful!

One trick she showed me is to use branching on questions so the user can answer a few, then the next set appears. Instead of overwhelming the user with all 20 questions, we can provide them “pages” of questions at a time.

microsoft forms paging cheat

I can set all the options to go to the same question, which is just the next question. Setting Forms branching like this causes the next question, and subsequently all following questions, to be hidden. Any answer I select will have question 10 appear, and giving the users a feel of progressing without really knowing when the fun will end.

Adding Images to Questions

In an attempt to continue to help the long form feel, I thought adding images to questions would help. Something to break up the content will help.

microsoft forms add image to question.png

Sadly, this didn’t help as much as I would’ve hoped. The image sizes are huge, as shown above, that image is “small”. Selecting the large option consumes over half of the space. That wasn’t going to work for me, too much space lost, but maybe that’ll work for you!

However, there was a side effect of adding an image.

Formatting Questions

When you add 1 image to 1 question, the entire form reformats. It goes from the first image I shared above to something like:

microsoft forms formatted question.png

Note the questions! They’re colored, formatted differently. Immediately this form feels better. I can see the questions, my eyes are naturally attracted to the questions as I walk through the form.

But I have to include a huge image on a question to get this to work. So, let’s do that! The hack here is to then SKIP that question, so the user NEVER sees the big image in your survey. Yes, really!

I added a new question to the bottom of the survey and threw an image into it.

microsoft forms hidden question.png

Then, using Branching, once the user gets to the final question of my survey, before this empty question, I set it to go to “End of the form”.

microsoft forms skipping hidden question.png

Question 21 never appears, never shows to the user, but I get the benefit of the formatting!

That’s it!

If you’re using tricks to improve Forms, let me know below! I’m a fan of this tool, but it has a long way to go before it’s as enterprise ready as we’d like. Check out some of my other Form posts here.

27 thoughts on “Squeezing a little more formatting out of Microsoft Forms

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  1. Hello! I am really loving the formatting of the questions that have options of “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree”. I have tried formatting my forms in a way that looks like this, but for some reason I cannot get one question with multiple answer choices with multiple answer selections like you have above. Is this only a feature on Forms Pro? Thanks so much for your help!

  2. Do all Microsoft Forms look like surveys? I want to make a form that looks like a form. Multiple fields on a page, e.g. First name, Middle name(s), Last name, DOB on one line, Address, City, State, Zip on the next line, and so on. We have staff that builds decent-looking forms in Excel, for example, where everything fits on a single page, with no scrolling/paging needed. I want to mimic those layouts in MS Forms, and use that as input to a workflow.

    1. Yea, Microsoft Forms are just surveys, not much more to it. I suggest taking a look at PowerApps, that’ll give you a lot more flexibility on the UI and data sources.

  3. I am using a theme but don’t like the banner colour it provides, it clashes with my company logo. Is there any way to simply use a theme but change the banner colour?

  4. Sorry for Bombing the board .. but this is such a cool hack.

    So did some testing .. looks like if you put a transparent image (143 x 19 pixels) and make the image the small size .. you actually get a reasonable effect for both computer and mobile layouts.

    It’s not perfect but it is serviceable for most layouts.

    You can drop this into a question as well . but it explodes a bit for narrow screens but if you have a typical display/monitor it should be ok to just drop the image in one of the questions.

    I would suggest dropping into a question that has a very short label.

  5. So I think it’s possible to craft an image of the right size and transparency (no color) that will just sit inline with your section title and you won’t need the branching workaround. Or that you can attach to a question .. that won’t materially affect the spacing of the form layout.

    playing around with it now to see what that magic size is. But I’m having trouble with the small vs. big version of an image and what is the right way to do it.

  6. FormsPro has a bit more formatting control .. at the text level .. but then Pro has a whole bunch of other issues. It almost feels like a completely different product.

  7. Any plans to add formatting controls to forms so I could: change row spacing to allow more questions, add a columns option to the forms.

  8. I think adding Sections and then putting an image in the Section title enhances both the tricks you mentioned. Sections split up the flow (still need to use branching) and one image in one section title gives the nicer colors in all the question boxes.

  9. The timing on this was perfect, as I was about to send out a survey. I added the fake question to get the numbered effect and added the branching and it’s much improved. Wonderful – thank you!!

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