Design Guidelines for Data Capture


A community health worker looking at mobile device.

Completing questionnaires is a core task for most healthcare workers using mobile health apps.

Data entry can be difficult and errors happen. Our goal with the Structured Data Capture (SDC) library and the design guidelines is to empower you to improve the user experience of data entry and the quality of captured data.

The four themes covered in this section are:

  1. Layout & navigation
  2. Questions and instructions
  3. Data capture
  4. Data validation and error messages

Layout & navigation

A stylized view of long scroll and paginated layouts.

Long scroll & paginated layout

Comparing long scroll and paginated layouts. Long scroll has 3
            questions on one page, while paginated has one question.
Long scroll layout (left) and paginated layout (right).

The Android FHIR SDK has two layout options for you to choose between:

  1. Long scroll (default)
  2. Paginated

A long scroll questionnaire shows all questions on one page and users navigate to each question by scrolling.

A paginated questionnaire displays the content across separate pages. Related questions or input fields can be grouped together on one page. Back and next buttons are anchored at the bottom of the page to navigate between pages.

Learn how to make a questionnaire paginated on Github

Which layout should you select?

Each layout option has its advantages and disadvantages. Below are some attributes of each layout type to consider as you're making the choice about which layout to use.

Long scroll Paginated
Speed of navigation Faster to navigate Slower to navigate
Accuracy of navigation Less precise navigation More precise navigation
Refocus on question after task switching Difficult to reorient after interruption Easier to reorient after interruption
Completing the digital questionnaire after the visit (copying from paper) Easier when copying from paper More difficult when copying from paper
Small screens Worse for small screens Better for small screens
Accessibility Worse for accessibility. Difficult to navigate. Better for accessibility. Discrete screens that can be handled by screen readers, text-to-speech, and other technologies.
Space for instructions and explanations Worse for guidance and instructions Better for guidance and instructions

Long scroll

Questionnaire with numbers shown in front of question title.
Do — Number questions
Number the questions to make it easier to navigate in a single page layout.
Comparing question title font size. Long scroll is 16px. Paginated is 28px.
Do — Adjust font size
Make the font size of question titles smaller when using long scroll, so more content is visible on the screen. Example: Long scroll is 16px. Paginated is 28px.


Paginated question "What state do they live in?" with
            dropdown selections.
Do — One question per page
Keyboards, dropdowns and other components take up space on the page, so aim for one question per page.
Paginated address fields where bottom field is not visible on screen.
Don't — Hide content below the fold
Content should be visible above the fold.
Multiple text fields grouped as one question. Question title is
            alternative contact person, with name, relationship and phone number
            as input fields.
Do — Group related content as one question
Example: These three text fields are all related to alternative contact person info, so they are grouped together on one page.
Unrelated questions on the same page. First question is insurance
            coverage and the second question is prior health conditions.
Don't — Group unrelated content
Avoid grouping unrelated content on one page, to avoid confusion.

Progress indicator

The progress indicator reflects progress made within a questionnaire.

Include a progress indicator on long questionnaires to help users navigate and see progress. Progress indicators show location within a questionnaire, and how much is left to complete.

Progress indicator located at top, below the questionnaire title.
Do — Long scroll layout
Position at top above the question and anchor so it is always visible even when scrolling.
Progress indicator located at the bottom, above the navigation buttons.
Do — Paginated layout only
Can position at the bottom instead, above the back and next buttons. With this layout you can also display which page the user is on.

Navigation buttons (back, next) are anchored at the bottom of the questionnaire. In an infinite scroll or on the last page of a paginated questionnaire the next button is labeled Submit.

Keep buttons in a consistent location and always use active buttons that are labeled with their action, such as back and next.

Navigation buttons are active. Next button with blue fill.
Do — Active buttons
Always display active buttons, even if forms are incomplete. Upon tapping next, show a pop-up dialog with instructions for completing missing fields or validation errors.
Next button is inactive. Next button with gray fill.
Don't — Inactive buttons
Inactive buttons make it hard for users to know how to fix the problem.
Next button only has an arrow icon and no text description.
Don't — Icon only buttons
Avoid icon only buttons. Always label buttons with a descriptive action.

Questions & instructions

Annotated paginated questionnaire showing questions and instructions components.
Overview of the 9 components covered in this section and how the components are combined in a paginated questionnaire.
  1. Questionnaire title.
  2. Progress indicator.
  3. Group header.
  4. Question title.
  5. Instructions.
  6. Input field.
  7. Entry format.
  8. Required fields.
  9. Help.

Group header

Group header is a text header that is displayed above question titles.

Use the group header to group similar questions together. Only use the group header when it adds helpful information.

Group header is Patient History.
Do — Short titles
Use a short title to group similar questions together. Example: all questions related to patient history are grouped.
Group header is personal information and lifestyle information.
Don't — Long titles
Avoid complex titles or long titles that go beyond one line.

Question title

The question title succinctly describes what information is requested. Question titles have the largest font size on the page to draw the user's eyes to the question.

Every page or question should have a question title. Keep question titles short or phrase it as a question.

Question title is date of birth.
Do — Short question title
Short titles make it easier for users to read.
Question title is What is your date of birth? Which city were you born in?
Don't — Long question title
Avoid very long questions or nesting two questions together.
No question title.
Don't — No question title
Always include a question title to make it easier for users to know what information they need to enter.


Instructions is an optional text field shown below the question title.

Use the instructions field to explain relevant instructions such as if the question is required, how many selections can be made (one or many), and what users should do if unable to complete all info or answer the question.

Instructions: Select one. Required question.
Do — Explain what is required
Use instructions field to inform if a question is required and how many selections can be made.
Instructions: If exact DOB is unknown select the unknown DOB checkbox.
Do — Explain what to do for edge cases
Use instructions to let users know what to do if they encounter a scenario like they are unable to complete all the fields.
Instructions: The alternative contact would be used in the case of
            an emergency situation and could be next of kin (e.g. partner,
            mother, sibling.)
Do — Explain context or definitions
Use instructions to provide additional context or definitions for terms used in the question title.

Label text

Label text informs users about what information is requested for a text field or dropdown. When the field is selected, the label text moves from the middle of the text field to the top.

Every text field and dropdown box should have a label. Label text should be short, clear, and fully visible.

Label text: First name.
Do — Be concise
Label text should be short, clear, and fully visible.
Label text: enter the name of client.
Don't — Be wordy
Label text shouldn't be too long, truncated, or take up multiple lines.
No label text.
Don't — No label
Always label the text field so users know what information to enter.

Entry format

EntryFormat is shown below the text field to inform users of the specific format data needs to be entered in. Error messages will be displayed in the EntryFormat field and replace existing EntryFormat instructions.

Use EntryFormat for dates, phone numbers, units, and integers.

Date format: dd/mm/yyyy.
Do — Use EntryFormat
Show date format below the field and include a descriptive phrase.
No date format.
Don't — No EntryFormat
Not showing data formats can lead to data being entered incorrectly.
Below the Heart rate text field the Entry format shows: Normal
            range: 60-100 bpm. Below the Blood oxygen saturation text field the
            Entry format shows: Normal range: 95-100%.
Do — Show normal range
When entering medical ranges, provide examples of the normal range. This can help users catch errors or numbers that are out of range.

Required fields

Required fields indicate that a user must complete the field and is blocked from advancing until the field is completed.

To indicate that a field is required, display an asterisk (*) at the end of the question title. Include 'required question' in the instructions field as it is not obvious to everyone what an asterisk (*) indicates. If there's no question title, display the asterisk (*) in the label text.

Asterisk after question title and required question in instructions below.
Do — Written explanation
Show the field is required with asterisk (*) and include written instructions that indicate `required question.` Many are unfamiliar with what the asterisk(*) means and would benefit from the explanation.
Asterisk after question title, but no written description explaining what asterisk means.
Don't — No explanation
Avoid showing only the asterisk (*) without any written description of what it means.
Asterisk after question title and mandatory question is shown in instructions below.
Do — Localize terminology
Use the terms that are most familiar to your users. Example: "Mandatory" might be the more familiar term and used in some countries instead of "Required".
No asterisk. Optional question is shown in the instructions.
Do — Indicate optional questions instead
If most questions are required, indicate which ones are optional instead.
Asterisk after label text. Required question shown in Entry format field.
Do — Show asterisk in label text instead
If there's no question title show the asterisk in the label text.


A help icon is displayed next to the question title. Upon tapping the icon, a help information box appears with additional information. Tapping the icon again closes the help information box.

This is an optional component. Only use when helpful to display additional information that does not need to always be visible.

Help: The seasonal flu vaccine is also called influenza immunization.
Do — Show optional info in help box
Use help for information that users might only need to see once or that provides additional information.
Help: Select one.
Don't — Hide instructions in help box
Avoid hiding instructions inside the Help box that should be visible to everyone.

Data capture

Eight data capture components; text fields, date picker, dropdown,
            slider, single choice, boolean choice, multiple choice and open
Eight of the primary data capture components in the Android FHIR SDK.

When to use which component?

Type of data entry Boolean choice Single choice Multiple choice Open choice Dropdown Date picker Text field Slider Auto-complete
Select Yes or No
Select one option
Select multiple options

Text fields

Text fields indicate that users can enter information.

Use text fields when someone needs to enter text into the questionnaire, such as a name, phone number, or address. Limit data entry that requires text (keyboard) entry when a pre-populated selection (multiple choice or single choice) can be used instead.

Learn more about text fields on

Question title: register a new person. Text field 1: name. Text
            field 2: phone number.
Do — Use text fields for unique data entry
Use text fields for data entry that requires typing unique words or numbers.
Question title: reason for visit? Text field: describe reason
Don't — Limit use of free text responses
Avoid using free text responses when it could be a multiple-selection, dropdown, or single choice selection instead.

Single choice & boolean choice

Single choice and boolean choice are a selection control that appear as radio buttons when users are asked to select one choice from options.

Use boolean choice when there's a binary choice of 'Yes' or 'No.' Otherwise, use the single choice component. If there's more than ~10 options in the list, use a dropdown instead of single choice. A dropdown is more dense and easier to navigate when there are many options.

Question title: is this their first visit? Boolean selection options
            are yes and no.
Do — Boolean choice
Use Boolean choice when the options are 'yes' and 'no'.
Question title: What is the highest level of education achieved?
            Single choice options are: 1. Does not know 2. No education

            3.  primary school 4. secondary school.
Do — Single choice
Use single choice when users can select one option in the list.
Single choice list showing a very long list of states. States 23-27
            are visible.
Don't — Very long lists
Avoid single choice for very long lists (10+). Use a dropdown instead.

Date picker

The date picker allows users to enter dates through both the calendar date picker and the keyboard. The calendar date picker is activated when the calendar icon is tapped.

Use the calendar date picker only for dates that are close to today's date such as last menstrual period or next visit. Otherwise prioritize keyboard entry for dates like birthdate.

Date of birth. Keyboard date entry is active. Calendar icon on right
            side of text field box. Checkbox is checked indicating that date is
Do — Both entry options
For entering dates enable both keyboard entry (tapping text box) and calendar date picker (tapping icon).
Calendar view of date picker.
Don't — Avoid calendar only
Avoid enabling the calendar date picker as the only input method for birth dates. Navigating to the month and year is difficult.

Dropdown menus allow users to make a selection from multiple options. As the user begins typing, options filter based on what's entered. This can help users quickly find the right option from a large list.

Dropdown menus are a great alternative to single choice when the list of options is very long (10+ options) as they take up less space.

Dropdown for State listing States A-F.
Do — Use for long lists
Use a dropdown when selecting one option in a very long list of options, such as selecting a state or city.
Dropdown for age, listing numbers one through six.
Don't — When typing is easy
Avoid using a dropdown when it would be easier to type the content in rather than scrolling through all the options, such as age.

Multiple choice

Multiple choice is a selection control that appears as checkboxes when users can make multiple sections from a list of options.

Use multiple choice when users can only select from a predetermined list of options. If users can also add their own free response, use the open choice component instead. In the instructions field write "Select all that apply" so users know they can select multiple options.

Question title: What's the reason for today's visit? Four checkboxes
            and options shown, one on each row.
Do — One selection per row
The default appearance is a container around checkboxes to make the tappable area obvious.
Question title: what's the reason for today's visit. Six checkboxes
            and options shown, two on each row. Some text is cut off for two of
            the options.
Don't — Multiple options per row
Avoid displaying multiple options per row, due to the variation in phone screen size and text size, the text can get cut off.

Open choice

Open choice is similar to multiple choice, but adds the ability for a user to select Other and type in free text.

Use open choice when there's a pre-set list of options, but users can also add additional options. Use open choice when the majority of options are known, but you foresee some users will select Other because none of the supplied options apply.

Other is selected. Text field for adding free text is active.
            Keyboard is visible.
Do — Use for more accurate data collection
Use when it's important that accurate data is collected and none of the predefined options apply. Example: occupation.
Question title: Anything else to add? Three options: Yes, No, and
            Other. Other is selected. Text field for adding free text is active.
Don't — If all responses will be other
Avoid using if the majority of responses would require selecting Other. In that case, use a text field or paragraph field instead.


Sliders allow users to make selections from a range of values. The slider in the Android FHIR SDK is a discrete slider. A discrete slider allows users to select a specific value from a predetermined range. Tick marks may be used to indicate available values. Avoid using the slider for numerical data entry. Instead use a text field or a dropdown menu.

Learn more about sliders on

Question title: how many children does the client have? A slider
            with the number four is selected.
Don't — Use slider for specific numbers
Avoid using the slider for specific values when there's a large range. Use text fields with keyboard entry instead.

Data validation and errors

Data validation

Data validations constrain the type of data or the values that can be entered in a text field. Data validation can improve the quality of data collected.

Use the EntryFormat field to display format or value restrictions. Show meaningful data validation error messages in-line and immediately so users can fix the error.

Label text: phone number. Entry format: 8 digits.
Do — Show validation restrictions
Show data validation restrictions upfront so users know how to enter the data.
Label text: phone number. Entry format: none.
Don't — Hide validation restrictions
Without showing how many digits the phone number needs to be, users are likely to encounter an error and it will take longer to complete.
Date entered is 22/33/4444. Error message: Wrong date format. Format
            must be: dd/mm/yyyy.
Do — Show validation errors immediately
Show meaningful data validation errors immediately after completing the field. Error messages replace the existing entry format text.
Dialog. Fix the following errors. 1. phone number. 2. date of birth.
            Button 1: submit anyway. Button 2: fix errors.
Don't — Wait until after submitting
Don't wait until the user has pressed "submit" to display validation errors for the first time.


Error messages alert users when something goes wrong and communicate how to fix the problem.

Use color, iconography and text to communicate errors.

Learn more about error messages on

Error message is 'Required question. Select one.'
Do — Clearly describe how to fix error
Explain why there’s an error (required question) and what can be done to fix it (select one.)
Error message is 'Error'.
Don't — Write only "error"
An error message that only says "error" is not helpful for users to know how to fix the error.
Date of birth. Date entered is 22/33/4444. Error message is Wrong
            date format. Format must be: dd/mm/yyyy.
Do — Explain how to fix the error without blame
Example: "Wrong date format. Format must be dd/mm/yyyy".
Date of birth. Date entered is 22/33/4444. Error message is 'You
            entered the wrong date format.'
Don't — Blame the user
Avoid blaming the user with error messages that include "you" Example: "You entered the wrong date format."
Error message with an icon in front of red text displaying 'Required
            question. Select one or more options.' Checkbox containers have a
            red outline.
Do — Multiple cues
Use color, iconography and text to inform users that there is an error.
No error message or icon. Checkbox containers have a red outline,
            which is the only indicator that there's an error.
Don't — Rely only on color
To support common visual impairments such as red-green color blindness, avoid relying only on color to communicate an error.
Checkbox containers have a red outline and one error icon displayed
            behind each container. 3 icons are visible.
Don't — Overuse icons
One icon is often enough. Don't overdo it on the use of icons to communicate the error.