Usability of pre-filled versus empty in content capture software

24 Jul 2009 - 2:45pm
7 years ago
3 replies
1139 reads
Phillip Hunter

(No semantic or grammar debates, I promise)

I'm researching a number of health care software packages. Many of
them have some way of short-cutting data entry, such as pre-selection
indicating the absence of unlikely conditions.

One tool, however, leans heavily on progressively, and supposedly
intelligently, filling in data based on answers given as the user
moves through the queries for content. By a certain point fairly
early, all content is ostensibly filled and the user must accept by
default, delete, or alter it.

Since this content is highly detailed and of course critically
important to get right, I suspect that there is no real gain by the
pre-filling. In fact, I wonder if the error rate might actually go
up with this model.

So, is anyone familiar with user research done comparing the two
methods, or others, for interactive, detailed, lengthy applications?

Other thoughts?


26 Jul 2009 - 1:57pm
Juan Lanus

Hi Phillip,
I'm working in a project with lots of forms full of pre-filled fields, with
information from a database that contains reliable data. The client has
requested that every known field be filled and protected so the user
couldn't change it. IMO this will lead to conflict, and it's
totally opposite to what Julia said.

One intermediate approach is to offer the user the known value near but
outside the input field and a means to put it into the field, with a button
or a drag&drop action, or simply copying ans pasting it.
Like thus (more or less):
Name [___________________] [ <= Juan Lanus]

This way you save the user the typing burden but somehow make them
accountable for the values entered.
Juan Lanus

On Sat, Jul 25, 2009 at 03:13, Julia <juli.slavin at> wrote:

> Hi Phillip,
> I'm not aware of any academic research in this field, but I've been
> involved in couple of projects with similar issues.
> In one project, which was about UI design for banking application,
> we've decided to not automatically fill in the entries, although
> there was really insignificant chance to make a mistake. It just was
> very crucial that the user not only fills in the correct data, but
> also is aware of the answers he/she provided.
> To me, it's like adding fields for email/password verification to a
> registration form, and then saving user their time by automatically
> filling in those entries.
> I think that if it is really crucial to get the correct data and keep
> customers aware of their answers, it's better not to fill in the data
> automatically. If there's really huge amount of the data to provide,
> and it can be fixed if wrong answers are provided, then I think it's
> Ok to do that if you clearly indicate that the data was filled in by
> the system.
> Good luck,
> Julia.
> Israel Tour Online
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27 Jul 2009 - 9:08am
Phillip Hunter

Juan and Julia,

Thanks for your responses. They are both helpful.


I thought of that same idea. While I think it's better, I still have
the concern that perhaps the user would treat it too casually.
Especially since, in my case, there are multiple lines of content per
field. It still might be too easy to scan and accept without fully


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