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Let's say you need to design a purchase order form that is more complex than "usual" and has multiple elements affecting the final price:

  • Choose between several tracks (e.g. Basic, Standard, Premium, etc.)
  • Different license types in each package (e.g. Limited, Full, Admin, etc.)
  • Commit to several licensing periods

How would you rather do it?

Step-by-Step wizard? or see and be able to change all the variables in one place?

The first is easier to use, but the second allows the user to quickly compare and see how each change is reflected on the bottom line.

If you have any good examples of such forms, I'd love to see them.

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It sounds like what you're doing might be similar to ordering a computer online, where you select from different options for processor, memory, accessories, etc. Look at DELL's and Apple's web sites for inspiration.

DELL uses a wizard style where each option is on a different page. Apple puts everything on the same page. Three things I like that they both have in common:

  • You start by choosing from a few basic types of computers, before drilling down into the details. (That might be analogous to your "tracks.")

  • A summary of your choices and price is always available in the top-right corner.

  • When selecting an option changes the "bottom line," it tells you by how much, e.g. "8GB (4X2GB) [Add $150.00]"

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I don't recommend using a wizard for a purchase order form unless your customers are especially patient and will tolerate anything to buy from you. I assume you have additional steps such as payment methods, etc. Your customers will not appreciate going through 6 steps.

It depends how complicated each step is but to me the rule of thumb is to ask for the absolute minimal number of details and to use just one page. See 37signals.com registration form.

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I would use a hybrid solution of tabs or an accordion control so on the one hand it is simple to understand each piece of the wizard but on the other hand navigation is still simple and it's easy to jump from step to step.

for an accordion example check out the domain registration form on GoDaddy (overall very slow and too confusing, but look at the way the accordion works).

I don't remember where I have seen a tab wizard recently.

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