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When I want to make an input dialog with lots of input field, do I need make the dialog in wizard style

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or tab style?

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Any suggestions?

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It's not clear what you're asking. Please expand your question with an example or more details on what you're trying to do. What do you mean by "wizard style" or "tab style"? –  Rahul May 20 '11 at 11:05
    
@Rahul updated with images :D –  Eko Kurniawan Khannedy May 20 '11 at 11:13
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6 Answers 6

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The wizard style makes it clear that all steps must be completed before you can save the data. It guides the user through the process and, if done correctly, makes sure that they don't miss out any vital information. This is particularly true if you don't enable "Finish" until the last page of the wizard.

Just having the tabs hides potential required information from the user so they don't know they have to enter it before hitting "Save". Even if you disable "Save" when there is missing information it's still not clear that the user has to go to the other tabs to enter it.

The tabbed approach might work if you include the required fields on the first (default) tab and use the other tab(s) for optional or additional information.

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Depends on what you are trying to create.

The main difference is that wizards generally imply sequentially order and require user to fill the required fields while tabs usually works with any order, but there are other issues to consider:

Tabs

  • Random order.
  • Better if the user try to edit existing information.
  • Better for intermediate/advanced users.
  • Better for "form like" views.
  • Better if you try to "break" lot of data into groups.

Wizards

  • Sequential order.
  • Better if user tries to figure out what are the steps to finish an operation.
  • Better for novice users.
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So most tax software gets it wrong? All the ones I've ever seen use a tabbed structure. Does it make a difference when you are working with a HUGE wizard, which tax software certainly is? –  skybluecodeflier Oct 15 '12 at 18:51
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  • If you need/expect people to work through the panels sequentially, use the wizard style. Typical when they must enter all values.
  • If you need/expect people to dip into the panels in random/any order, use the tabbed style. Typical when they must configure/change just a few values.

Convergence

I've also found the wizard style, without next and back buttons, and without the heading 'steps' or step numbers useful when there are a large number of panels. Its advantage is that it can take more panels without scrolling/overcrowding of the list of names than the tab view can. Stripped of those elements, it essentially is a tabbed control, but with the tabs on the left rather than above. It also extends gracefully when you get really large numbers of panels as then on the left you can switch to using a tree in place of the list.

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I would say that this depends on what you're trying to create.

I would rather see a wizard than tabs for a "first-time setup" for any application. If there is a lot of data, sometimes it can be overwhelming to the user to provide them with everything, in any order, all at once. So, in the event that you're trying to set up an application for the first time, go with the wizard.

On the other hand, if this is an application that I've been using frequently, I honestly don't want to have to go through a wizard every time to set things up. Now, there are some exceptions to this rule. Cygwin understandably requires you to go through a setup experience each time you wish to add something to it. However, they also have to connect to a server, then pull a list of packages, etc. All things that should really happen in a sequential order. In general, however, most applications that are already installed don't need this, and could probably just get away with a tabbed set of information.

So I would say, in general, go with a wizard if you:

  • Need to answer all of the questions in a form in a sequential order
  • Need to set up an application (or internet account) for the first time.

Wheras, you should probably go with a tabbed form, if you:

  • Have already installed the application, and just need to change a few settings.
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Go with wizard style.

You have a nice outline of the steps on the left that lets the user know where they are in the process. Tabs are used more often in scenarios when the user is jumping around between tasks or pages, and are not often used in sequential order, or to imply sequential order.

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I think you are misinterpreting what a wizard style interface means.

If you were to put the tabs in an interface like this wizard step panel then there might not be confusion about the order of completion and it helps separate out some of the content.

Personally I still prefer the wizard style.

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