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Disclaimer: Many questions have been asked on this general topic, so apologies if this is a duplicate, but I think this is distinct from the existing questions.

I am designing a five step form. The user can exit the form and return to it later. So I have a Previous, Next, and Save Draft action.

What is the ideal placement of the buttons/elements?

I want them to be left aligned below the form fields and to clearly indicate the primary action: Next.

So far I've come up with this:

enter image description here

Any thoughts or solutions are appreciated.

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6 Answers 6

Left-aligned buttons below the fields would provide a clear path to completion. Luke Wroblewski discusses clear path to completion in his book "Web Form Design" (PDF that contains some of the images).

Here is an example from the book on how alignment can make the path of completion clearer:

Poor Path to Completion

Clearer Path to Completion

Similar to the example above, you may consider having "Next" be the only primary action, and having "Previous" and "Save Draft" as secondary actions (links).

Although you did not ask about this directly in your question and you may already plan on implementing this technique, I would also recommend using this in your form:

Steps

This would clearly indicate to the user which step they are on and how many steps are left. They would also be able to click any step in the form, rather than having to click the previous action multiple times to return to a single step.

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I was thinking of Luke W's advice when moving the buttons left but was tripped up because 'Previous' and 'Save Draft' are secondary actions but putting 'Previous' to the right of 'Next' creates confusion. Would you turn both secondary actions to links and keep their placement as shown above? As mentioned below 'Save Drafts' would be better called 'Complete Later.' –  Giselle Sperber Jul 26 '13 at 1:53
    
It's a tough call, as there are advantages and disadvantages to either. I would place "Next" (primary) first, then "Previous" (secondary) second, and "Complete Later" (secondary) third. Although the order of next and previous are switched, the majority of the time the user is searching for the function that proceeds with the form. If I were using the form, I would most likely click the Step 1-5 control if I needed to proceed to a previous step. Which ever design you choose, I suggest some user testing to see if there are any snags. –  Keiwes Jul 26 '13 at 2:17
    
On Windows, "submit/ok" goes to the left of "cancel". If this were a pagination control, I would put "next" to the "right" of previous, but since it's about moving forward through a form, I would say it's fine the other way around. On a Mac "next" should be on the right, alleviating the entire issue and supporting the right = forward flow. –  Koen Lageveen Aug 20 '13 at 10:34

Button alignment

Left aligned buttons do have several advantages:

  • fits forms structured with left or top aligned labels
  • no guessing where to position the button on a wide screen
  • works well on mobile

Button prioritization

  • assuming most users complete the entire process in one session Next is the primary action and should be highlighted as such
  • Previous is secondary, i.e. should be grey (or even a link)

Save draft

  • Can be a nice and convenient feature if the form is very long or there's a reason why users would want to save
  • Save also requires some thought: how do users save, what is displayed during saving the input and what is shown as a confirmation? Can they save again? How do they access a saved form afterwards?
  • If you can afford it I'd suggest to consider auto-saving the form (see composing emails in Gmail as an example)

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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The design approach you have taken is good, but a few things to consider:

The step by step approach could be for

  1. Just organizing - here Previous works well
  2. One step affects the next one. Does that mean the user loses - This makes Previous a potentially dangerous function, in the sense that user might lose some data.

    In this case I would not want to give Previous as much prominence and might even not have it. Instead I would show a list of the 5 steps and make them clickable. The completed steps would show tick mark. This way you can have visual indications on the those labels to show that backing up to step 2 from step 4 could affect step 3 and 4 data.

Second thing to consider is what should happen when one clicks Save as Draft, would the user exit the wizard or remain in the form itself. For example if the Save as Draft is there as the user is entering a lot of data and should not lose it while they are working on it, then the user remains on the form. If it is because the user may complete the process over a period of time, then they'll likely exit the form. In the first case, you should consider autosave as that ensures data is not lost and then you do not need the button.

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Thanks so much for the input. The wizard does have five clickable steps up top, and I like the idea of removing previous entirely. The 'Save Draft' action, is as you guessed, to allow users to pause their work, exit the wizard and come back to it at a later time, if they need. Perhaps it should be named differently? –  Giselle Sperber Jul 25 '13 at 21:06

If you are stepping someone through a process I would have the next button act as a save in the background. You will have to store the data for them to go back to anyways.

Unless they are writing bulk copy and might want to save the draft before moving to the next step. Is this the case?

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1  
Thank you. Yes, we will be saving in the background. Your question reveals that the 'Save Draft' needs a better title. Its purpose is to allow the user to pause their work, exit the wizard, and return at a later moment. –  Giselle Sperber Jul 25 '13 at 21:13

Regarding button placement, if Save Draft (whatever you decide to call it) is going to exit the workflow, maybe you should place it further from the others - it would be disruptive if someone accidentally jerked their mouse a few pixels to the right before clicking, and got kicked out of the wizard (even though they will not lose data).

I expect sites to save the entered data (except for passwords) in later pages if I want to revisit a Previous tab, presumably this will be the case here (else you don't care enough about users to let them save midway ;)

Next can be repurposed as Finish for the last step. Also, for the first step if Previous is hidden, you may prefer to keep Next button in the same relative location instead of moving it around.

As you considered changing the title for Save Draft in comments on the other answers, a couple of alternate suggestions:

  • Save and Exit : only if this is a seperate popup that will be closed automatically
  • Complete Later : Implicit that you will save the info as workflow is suspended
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I always recommend adopting mind-map approach.

Considering right-hand users - Previous / BACK is always to the left and Next is always to the right, and most importantly Save / Draft/.. etc., are context based actions, hence should be in the toolbar area of the screen (top, bottom - I prefer bottom).

NOTE: In addition when YOU ARE NOT USING TABS you should provide the train-component to show current position / navigation.

Find the image below carrying the depiction of my explanation in more details.

Click Here

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