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I have a form in an Android app: it's kind of a page of a wizard, for constructing a query against a web service. Each section of the form is a different way to progress to the next page of the wizard, and they're alternative options:

  • Type in the name of a user to go to that user's profile page
  • Type in a tag to select all posts matching that tag
  • There's a button to select the logged-in user's inbox
  • There's a list of the user's projects to pick from
  • There's a list of the user's contacts: clicking on one goes to that user's profile

The user only needs to pick one item to get to the next page of the wizard. They're all too small individually to be on separate screens/tabs: each is just a label, maybe an EditText, and a button. Even putting them behind an accordion would be silly: the accordion label would be no smaller than the item itself!

The prototype has them all on one screen, arranged vertically in a list, with a separator between each alternative labelled "or". The result is an intimidating wall of text and buttons, and looks much more complicated than it really is.

I should note that this is a setup form, not an everyday-use form, so supporting new users' "exploration behaviour" by exposing the possible options is more important than reducing the number of clicks or catering to experienced users.

How can I show the user the possible options without intimidating him, and how can I convey that they can pick any option rather than going from top to bottom?

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you mean the user has to choose one of the five options you mentioned? –  Dvir Adler Aug 19 '13 at 14:16
    
Yes, the user has to choose one. But the 'find user by name' and 'tag' options also involve typing in some text. –  Dan Hulme Aug 19 '13 at 14:19

2 Answers 2

If the user has to choose one option and then proceed, I suggest you show a menu with all the five options.

Once the user chooses an option, he is moved to a new screen where he can type in the data he needs to enter for the query.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Since this is in mobile, there's a lot of sense in breaking tasks into atomic steps, each into its own screen.

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Thanks for your suggestion. If I could add incremental search, I think this would be the way to go. But as I can't (this is a limitation of the web service, out of my control), I don't want to add a new screen with just one text field and button. But this is only one step removed from my own idea, of showing the 'new screen' in place. –  Dan Hulme Aug 19 '13 at 14:34
    
You could show the results in the second screen, making it similar to many other instances of search in mobile. –  Dvir Adler Aug 19 '13 at 14:36
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I like this. Make it simple, break it down into small easily understandable steps. Why not have a screen with just one text field and a button? Especially since on-screen keyboards take up a lot of space. –  Koen Lageveen Aug 20 '13 at 9:01

After writing up the question, I had an idea that I might have been too quick to dismiss the accordion approach. The overall problem is that the items with EditTexts make the screen feel less like a menu, but the items without them would look silly as accordions. Instead, the screen should present the list of options in the style of a menu: only short labels, with an icon for each option. Clicking on one of the 'simple' options chooses that option and goes to the next page immediately. Clicking on one of the options that needs a parameter (such as the "all posts tagged x" option) makes that option expand accordion-fashion to show the EditText and a button labelled "OK" or "Go".

I'm still open to other ideas if someone wants to offer one.

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