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Is there evidence or rule in UX against showing tabs within wizard steps for forms? For e.g If there is a 4 step process and it needs to be brought down to 3 steps, we are thinking of combining 2 steps into one to make it so. However it will become a very big step with lots of fields. So is tabbing relevant/advanced but not mandatory information a do-able idea or having a collapsible section better?

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If you've got two tabs or an "advanced" section then unless that information is optional it's still really four steps. You haven't really shortened the process but you've made it more likely that people will miss out this "hidden" step.

If you really want it to be three steps rather than four then you must either:

  1. Reorganise all the steps to distribute the information gathering uniformly across them. Obviously if the natural grouping of the information doesn't allow this then this again could cause confusion.
  2. Remove some information from the process. If there's anything that can be made optional remove it from the wizard and have an "edit" option later where the information can be added.

If neither of these approaches work, then you are left with keeping it as a four step wizard.

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It is options but we would like it to be not be missed out on entirely as you said. Thanks for your thoughts. – MD_ID Nov 4 '11 at 23:06

You are trying to combine two different navigation methods, which is always going to be confusing and problematic. In wizards that have tabs within the steps, these should only be used for some extra, optional, additions, not for the main use. It should be normal to go through the wizard giving minimal information and get a correct and reasonable result out of the far end.

You may, based on other comments, be able to put some of the optional information on a separate tab, if you reorganise your data. But do not make the normal or expected route through the wizard including a second tab.

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I was wondering if that advanced (optional) section which is not mandatory for the result creation but has value in it, can it be like a collapsed section as a field below the required form fields and this way is more likely to be seen and clicked on since it looks like part of flow. The user can expand it if he wants to fill it? – MD_ID Nov 8 '11 at 19:28
Yes probably. As a rule, I would prefer less "pages" - wizards or tabs - and more on a page hidden and available for looking at when needed. Some of that is personal preference. – Schroedingers Cat Nov 8 '11 at 20:32

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