MOSS Surveys on Public Facing Sites

Sharepoint surveys can be used to gather data, create user polls, or otherwise interact with visitors to your site. Using surveys, you define a set of questions (both multiple choice and open) and have users of the site fill them in.   Surveys allow for simple data gathering, scale rating, and even branching logic (determining the next question in a series of questions depending on the last answer provided).

When you have a public-facing site, it will be (by default) configured with anonymous read access for all users.   This makes sense, as typically you will want your users to be able to read your web content without logging in.    They will not, however, have write access to your site.    This presents a problem when working with surveys, as users must be able to write to your server in order to answer survey questions.    Fortunately, with some minor configuration changes, you can configure your site to allow users to provide you with data via the survey utility.    Follow these steps to properly configure your site.

Create the survey

Create a new survey by selecting ‘Survey’ from the Site Settings page. You will see this screen:

Enter a title and description for the survey.   Cick Next, and begin creating the questions that will make up your survey:

You can add as many questions to your survey as you like.  When you’re satisfied that you’ve entered all your questions,  click Finish and allow the survey to be created.  You will be redirected to the Survey Settings page: On the settings page, make note of the following two settings: ‘Advanced Settings’ and ‘Permissions for this survey’.  Begin by clicking  ‘Advanced Settings’.

Configure advanced settings

Set ‘Read Access’ to ‘All Responses’, ‘Edit Access’ to ‘Only their own’ and ‘Allow items from this survey to appear in search results’ to ‘No’.

Configure permissions

Navigate to the permissions screen: By default, the survey will inherit permissions from the site.  To properly configure your survey, you will need to break this permissions inheritance by selecting ‘Edit Permissions’ from the ‘Actions’ menu. Once you’ve selected ‘Edit Permissions’, a settings menu will appear and from it, you will choose ‘Anonymous Access’. Make sure that the checkboxes for ‘Add’ and ‘View’ are selected.

Configure advanced settings a second time

Again, navigate to the ‘Advanced settings’ screen and set Read Access back to ‘Only their own’.

Congratulations, your survey can now be completed by all anonymous users, and they will not be able to see each others entries. The information collected via survey responses is stored in the survey’s library.  Site Owners and Administrators can review the responses, including aggregated graphs of all entries.

Cautions and Items of Note:

  • Setting ‘Allow multiple responses’ to ‘No’ has no effect when a survey is configured to allow response from anonymous users.    This makes the survey functionality unsuitable for “voting” applications.
  • Users will be able to see the Survey summary page, which displays the number of entries. This may not always be as desired.
  • Sharepoint does not support allerts on lists that allow users to see only their own entries. You may be able to keep track of new entries by consuming the RSS feed from the survey.