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I want to refactor a large WinForm into a wizard. It's become large and overly complicated over the last few years and it's time for a redesign.

There is definitely a clear workflow on the current form.

  1. User enters information in one panel and presses a button to populate the next panel.
  2. User decides if that information is correct and presses a button to fill the third panel.
  3. Then the fourth panel gets filled and so on.

There are clear steps involved in this process with few decision forks to navigate. But this is a form that gets used frequently each day (5-10 times per user). Provided it is designed well, would a wizard that's used frequently be more annoying to a user than a single form that bombards you with all the information at once?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

From Designing Interfaces p. 55 (Tidwell, 2010):


[Use when] You are designing a UI for a task that is long or complicated, and will usually novel for users - not something they do often or want much fine-grained control over [...]

And further:

Expert users often find Wizards frustratingly rigid and limiting. [...]

And in addition:

But the very need for a Wizard indicates that a task may be too complicated. If you can simplify a task to the point where short form or a few button clicks can do the trick instead, that's a better solution.

Can you simplify the task? For example, is the second step really necessary?

If your workflow is the only possible one anyway - and there are no expert settings or special cases - the Wizard might still work in your case.

Know your users! Do they want/have to make decisions, or are they fine with the standard way?

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Thank you! After talking it over, I'm leaning toward simplifying the current form and creating an optional wizard for users that prefer it. – Cuthbert Nov 21 '13 at 16:00

It sounds like for your task, a wizard might be appropriate because as you've described there are a set of distinct steps and your 'one big form' approach has gotten large and unwieldy.

In general, wizards tend to be helpful for newer users, but frustrate experienced users. To accommodate these two distinct audiences, maybe you could have the wizard and the 'one big form', at least for some amount of time. See what your users like or dislike.

Also for your 'experienced' users, perhaps you could create workflows that skip some of the decision points. For example, a 'Don't ask me to confirm this' sort of setting(s) or separate workflows that they can choose that work for a more specific scenario.

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Thanks for this answer. You both have pretty much the same ideas. I'm not sure which one to mark as the accepted answer. As I said in the other comment, I'm going to simplify the current form and create a wizard for users that prefer them. – Cuthbert Nov 21 '13 at 16:02
Go ahead and mark the other answer as accepted. It got posted just before I finished typing mine so all things being equal, Moller was faster. – Jonathan Arbogast Nov 21 '13 at 16:25

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