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I have a site where at one step in the wizard the user has to make a choice between one option or another. Once they've made this choice the form fields and resulting information are specific to that response. However this is not a fixed choice so having made it they can switch between the two to see which one they prefer.

Instead of having both sets of response forms and information displaying at once it makes mor sense to only display that which relates to the answer they chose. (There is quite a lot of information belonging to each response) Which method here would work better?

I'm planning on putting the two sets of forms behind tabs so that the user can switch easily between them, but i'm concerned that if I initially present them with the tab panel it gives extra prominence to the open tab over the closed one. We want the user to have a free choice over which option to take.

I also need to have a brief description against what each option means.

I think there are two options I'm considering. First, to open with the tab panel at one of the states with information about this state vs the other (with option to swap if the tabs aren't noticed):

enter image description here

I've also got another idea where I present the two options as a pair of buttons with descriptions to choose from, which when chosen will then open the tab panel in the required state. However going with this means it's not so clear that you can change once you've made a decision so I've replicated the description text and link to the other tab within the panel. This is resulting in quite a long messy page and that's one of the things i'm trying to avoid in the first place (here the content below the red line isn't displayed until the question has been answered) :

enter image description here

I'm sure issues like this have cropped up in other sites but I can't find any examples of how they've been handled. Which of these routes I have gone for is preferrable (if any) and why?

/EDIT - I should mention that I use car transmission purely as an example here, this isn't the actual purpose of my application but does give a good example of the particular issue.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

this may be too much of a desktop approach, but I would do it like this:

  • You should present the choice of manual vs automatic as radio buttons.
  • The options that are specific to the transmission type are listed underneath the corresponding radio button. Based on which radio button you select, the corresponding options will be enabled, the others will be disabled.

Example:

enter image description here

Note that looks a lot simpler, because:

  • It allows you to remove the "switch to automatic" link
  • It allows you to remove the tabs
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The issue with this approach I think is that the radio button (or button of any type really) seems more of a 'decision' rather than a 'browse'. I don't want them to have to decide something, but realise that they can view two options and decide between them. –  JonW Nov 15 '11 at 14:49
    
At this point you are not deciding anything. Clicking radio buttons does not perform any real action whatsoever. This only sets a selection, and the selection is only committed once you click "OK, I want to purchase this car". –  Bart Gijssens Nov 15 '11 at 14:56
    
Look at how most online car configurators work. (Example: configurator.audi.be/…). Any selection at all (color, engine, transmission,...) influences only the rendered image of the car. You don't make any selection yet. Making the selection is done in the last step where you have something like "OK I want to buy it", or "I want to test drive this car"... I really don't understand what is unique about the problem you describe. –  Bart Gijssens Nov 15 '11 at 15:05
    
That AUDI site is really nicely done (not in Flash either, which is a nice touch). It's a nice option. The only issue would be that the responses to my 2 questions result in a lot of content against that choice, not just one or two fields, but this radio-button approach could be used in one form or another. Thanks. –  JonW Nov 15 '11 at 15:12
    
OK, I see. But why is it important for a user to see the associations of certain options with the selected transmission type? Wouldn't the user just want to select the transmission type irrespective of which other options can or cannot be made based on that selection? –  Bart Gijssens Nov 15 '11 at 15:14

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