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I'm designing an app that is crowd sourced and therefore needs to be as simple as possible to use. One of the big things about the app is that users can upload things themselves using an input form within the app. All of the forms are native (not using webview). As far as I can see it there are two potions here:

  1. Stick to the native Android placeholder prompt:

Native Android Placeholder Prompt Inputs

  1. Or put labels in front of the input fields:

Labeled Input Fields

However there are pros and cons for each of these layouts:

Android Native:


  • Familiar
  • Takes up less space
  • Looks cleaner


  • Grey text maybe harder to read
  • Not immediately obvious to a user what they were filling in should they be interrupted
  • Hard to mark required fields

Labelled view


  • Clear and obvious
  • Text can be made easy to read
  • Allows for further information in the input field (like "i.e. green")
  • Easy to continue filling in if interrupted


  • Less streamlined
  • Seems "messier"
  • Will cause problems on smaller screens

This question has some answers (like using top aligned labels) but seems to be more about a webview or cross platform framework, which won't act as a native app does.

I've read articles however they have a lot of conflicting opinions, one author will say to label text fields, another will say that labeling an input field is the worst thing that can be done.

Do we have any stats or figures to show which type of input label Android users prefer?

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Don't know much about mobile design, but I read a study that suggested to put labels above the text fields for faster recognition. –  K.. Nov 20 '13 at 15:41
@KitP, did the study suggest that recognition of top-aligned labels was even faster than the user of the placeholder prompts? –  heyhamburgerpimp Nov 20 '13 at 18:51
@heyhamburgerpimp sadly the study only focused on the use of top-aligned labels vs left/right aligned labels. –  KitP Nov 20 '13 at 19:08

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

In your situation, I think you should use the placeholder prompts.

My criteria is that when the users fills in the fields, will they be able to tell what the values mean without the placeholders? In your case, I think that the answer is YES. The fields 'Name', 'Corporation' and 'Type' seam different enough that they will rarely contain duplicate (or near duplicate) values. In other words, if you showed someone a filled out form with no labels, I think they would be able to figure out that the top item is the person's name and the second item is the company they work for.

To me, the placeholders are a subtle way to instruct new users and at the same time not visually clutter the screen for experienced users.

Sorry I don't have a clearcut answer for all situations. I think that's because its a design choice we have to make in each specific situation!

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I have to agree with you about it being a design choice, you've raised some good points here, thank you. –  KitP Nov 20 '13 at 16:02

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