So, I have a form for doing data entry where there is a list of items which have three fields. The first two fields of each item are multiple-choice from five options, the third field is a simple comment text field. There could be up to 50 lines of items.

It is expected that the users of this data-entry form will be using it multiple times in one session, and could be considered experts. That is, this isn't an interface which will used by the general public.

This is what I have so far:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

An alternative interface being considered is the following, where radio buttons are used instead of a drop-down select:


download bmml source

There will likely also be an upload/import function, separate from this data-entry form.

Any suggestions for better ways of doing this?


4 Answers 4


If you are looking for the fastest way for experts to enter the data, you should focus on keyboard entry with keyboard navigation.

I would rename Alpha and Beta to "Alpha (1-5)" and "Beta (1-5)", and make them text entry areas restricted to the numbers 1-5. You should have some sort of client side validation to ensure that no other numbers are used. I would then make sure that it is visually clear which field is currently active, and allow people to tab between fields.

A slightly modified option (but less discoverable) would be to allow the numbers 1-5 to select the corresponding radio button, and then allow tabbing between fields. This makes it more accessible to non-expert users, while still allowing expert users to enter quickly. You however have to deal with educating them about the keyboard number entry.

Nothing I have seen that uses a mouse has ever come close to this in speed for data entry.


Are the options in the first two fields always going to be the values 1-5, or does your description and wireframe mean to say that there will always be five options but these will be different in each field?

  • The options for Alpha and Beta are the same 5 codes for each item, and are the same codes for every instance of the form. The codes are not actually literally "1" thru "5".
    – Erics
    Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 16:56

Your alternative way of enter data is more user friendly.(just click click click) But the repeating 1 2 3 4 5 is annoying. you could remove it and adjust it in one row blow the alpha and beta

  • Maybe more user friendly for a mouse user, but certainly not for a keyboard user. Having to tab through each option on the radio button group each time! Strewth, that is very un-user friendly.
    – JonW
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 18:01

The fastest flow seems something like this on the keyboard:

Focus on Alpha
1 Tab 
Focus on Beta
4 Tab
Focus on Gamma
foobar comment Tab
Change Focus to next row 
  • 1
    Seems to me, you can loose the tabs in between too. Focus can shift automatically to allow for fast data entry. Typing 14foobar comment[enter] would do.
    – André
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 11:21
  • @André Your idea might work faster. Though sometimes it is a matter of habit I feel. Some users find the focus shift on Tab more natural. Depends. Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 11:43

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