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Digital Data Collection Platform Review: CommCare

Two members of the TecSalud team, an engineer and a designer reviewed 3 of digital development’s highest ranked data collection platforms to see how they match up. Read more about the face off and our score categories in the intro blog.


Powerful Features With Great Design Flexibility

Overall Score: 4.3 / 5

Across our 5 scoring categories, we found CommCare to be the most powerful tool of the three platforms, mostly because its easy-to-use interface allows users to build very simple or complex applications. It is the most versatile builder that can solve your need for a single survey or a long-term case management. The only downside is not having an integrated data visualization tool which means you have to either download or integrate your CommCare data into a separate system.

Category 1: Product Orientation

Score: 4.5/5

User Friendly and Intuitive: Overall, we found the CommCare user interface to be user friendly. From the beginning, the user is provided with support tools to guide them through the application building process. The application builder is intuitive to use. Helpful icons guide the user in selecting the right questions types.

Great Support Materials: CommCare has a comprehensive Help Site with information about every feature. For a higher-level introduction, users can take a course in the Dimagi Academy that will guide them step-by-step in developing their first application. There is also a CommCare User Forum where participants can pose questions about the platform, and you can search through other peoples’ questions. Finally, there is a wide variety of tutorials and webinars in YouTube – although please note that most of these are in English.

Application Simulator: CommCare has a phone simulator next to the application builder. This enables users to easily try app and immediately make any changes without having to download it onto a phone every time.

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Category 2: Primary Features

Score: 5/5

Free Version: CommCare’s Community Edition (or free version) allows for most features to be included in the app, including multimedia questions and many application design components. There is a limit to the number of users that can use the app and forms that can be submitted, which makes it a great option for smaller projects. You can learn more about their pricing tiers on their pricing page

Flexible Formatting: CommCare is very customizable. Icons and multimedia resources can be added to the questions, along with help messages, alerts, and text formatting. All of these features can help guide the user to make better use of their application.

Connecting data: The most important feature in CommCare is their Case Management feature, which enables you to link all of your forms together, when you want to track a topic of interest over time, be it a specific patient, household, farm or others. This helps application users to easily register and update information about this object of interest over time without needing to re-enter information every time.

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Category 3: Logic

Score: 5/5

Hidden values: A remarkable feature in CommCare is its “hidden values.” These are special types of questions that run complex calculations, or save values from previous questions and forms, that are not visible to the end user.

Easy Logic Programing: Logic programming in CommCare is really easy once you have completed the first beginner tutorial. Its drag and drop features makes it easy to program logic without writing code. However, it requires a certain level of familiarity with conditional or logical structures to write complex logic. There is no visual help for logic programming in CommCare, so it requires users to be careful when programming.

Complex Logic: CommCare supports very advanced logic. This makes their apps even more powerful to users and more efficient on phones and tablets. For advanced developers, its satisfying to write conditional structures because you can create nice logic sentences that enable the app to flow in natural ways.

CommCare Logic.png

Category 4: Mobile Experience

Score: 4/5

Mobile Devices: CommCare only works on the web (if you pay for it), on Android devices, and with select Java feature phones.

Appearance: In this application, you can either have one question or group several questions on each page. Once you answer a question or group of questions on that page, you can click an arrow on the screen or swipe to the left to move to the next one. This allows for a clear and organized answering sequence, where you cannot skip mandatory questions, making the logic you programmed come into effect perfectly.

Blog commcare screenshot.jpg

Category 5: Data Use and Visualization

Score: 3/5

Downloading Data: CommCare data can be downloaded into .csv and Excel formats. You can also create daily saved exports of data. The data export interface is user friendly and gives you clever options to prepare the data for special formats, such as dates in Excel and to identify sensitive data variables. All data downloads include information about the users who submitted the data.

No Built-In Data Visualization: CommCare's free version doesn't visualize the data you are collecting, be it in graphs, charts or other means. Instead, you’ll have to export your CommCare data into a separate data visualization tool, which adds an extra process to your workflow. CommCare does support built-in data visualization tools in their paid tiers.

Want to see how CommCare stacked up against other data collection tools?

Check out our introductory blog, or read our reviews of SurveyCTO and Magpi.