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enter image description here I am working on an enterprise application for a telecom domain. In this application, we have a catalog of templates for software to be deployed/installed.

Deployment usually needs a lot of parameters configured and is usually handled by experienced engineers or operators with clear instructions from experienced engineers. The template also describes the content of deployment and inputs the instance needs to install.

Each template may vary in its structure, content, deployable software components etc. As a result, the installation form was split to make it a step by step process of logical chunks of inputs for configuration. A combination of these individual chunks make a complete wizard for different templates. As a result, a few templates may have step 1, 2, 3 as shown in image B a few may have 1, 3 or just step 1 and so on...

Now the situation.. when a template does not need any entry in step 2 or step 2 kind of parameters, which of the below options is correct:

  1. keep the step 2 in place in the wizard flow but provide a message saying "this step does not need any inputs"

  2. Keep the step 2 disabled and skip in the flow.

  3. Do not include step 2 in the flow at all since it is not necessary for the template. effectively customizing the wizards per template.

My intuition says step 3 is the right way to go to avoid additional steps and confusion and since the user is either an experienced engineer or operator with specific instructions they would not be confused if they do not see a step missing in the flow.

In a similar case, if the deployment needs only one logical chunk, the form can be a single page form instead of a wizard.

Developers and Architects at my end are heavily gunning for option 1 with a reason "the user may get confused if he does not see a step, we need to tell him that this step is not necessary for installation from this template" effectively leaving multiple steps empty with messages.

What do you guys think is the right choice? and what is the rationale for your choice?

  • Step 1 Selects elements to install, Step 2 is customization, and Step 3? What percentage (aprox) is the non-step2 case, is it the exception, or is it common? – Alvaro Feb 6 '17 at 10:56
  • It looks like you've already reached a conclusion that you could be testing on real users. You might also want to think about changing any 'Next' buttons to 'Skip to step 3' in cases where step two is not required – Andrew Martin Feb 6 '17 at 10:56
  • @Alvaro, There is no research that indicates the percentage of differences at the moment. this completely depends on How and engineers wants to create a template (yes templates are also made by engineers, and then saved in catalog for use by them in the future or other engineers) so there is no telling what they add to the template, it is based on the requirements of the organization. – Ahmed Baig Feb 6 '17 at 11:02
  • different organizations may want to do it differently. it is also possible that one organisation may have templates which do not have a particular step at all and another org may have all the steps. and another may have only one step. and another may have mixed templates. and the steps may not be limited to 3. – Ahmed Baig Feb 6 '17 at 11:02
  • @AndrewMartin, we do not have luxury or access to real users :( i have to rely on established behavior and heuristics. – Ahmed Baig Feb 6 '17 at 11:04
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  1. "keep the step 2 in place in the wizard flow but provide a message saying "this step does not need any inputs"": This is clear but adds extra steps which can't be filled.

  2. "Keep the step 2 disabled and skip in the flow.": This implies that there is some way to enable the step which is not the case.

  3. "Do not include step 2 in the flow at all since it is not necessary for the template.": The user might be asking himself where is the missing Step?

The doubt is between steps 1 and 3. This will depend on the user expectation. There are expectations from unrelated unconnected cases and expectations from connected cases.

If I start to install some Software, I will expect to see a Terms and conditions step, because that is what I have seen previously in unrelated Software. If I don't see the step then I will simply think that either it is not necessary or the step will happen after in some other way. Appropriate solution could be 3.

If I start to install a Software which is from the same family as a previous one, I will expect more or less the same steps. If there is a step I have already seen several times but is not there in the current case I will consider there is something wrong going on. Appropriate solution could be 1.

So this will depend on what will the user expect. It looks to me that your case is the later, so probably adding a message explaining that the step is not necessary for this template might be the appropriate option.

  • the template type defines the content of the forms. there can be template 1, 3 of similar types and template 5, 8 of another type so the form would look same(show same steps) for 1 and 3 and for 5,8 respectively. Does this hold good for option 3 ? – Ahmed Baig Feb 6 '17 at 11:40
  • @AhmedBaig It is difficult to tell in abstract. If the user understands 1&3 are different from 5&8 then I guess yes, but if he doesn't then no... – Alvaro Feb 6 '17 at 11:59
  • Another solution could be to use always the same steps (step1=terms and conditions, step2=customization, etc.) and then in the templates that don't have step2 let the user go from step 1 to 3 letting him know somewhere that step2 doesn't belong. – Alvaro Feb 6 '17 at 12:00
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My rationale says that it would be okay to not show step 2 at all as the target users are experienced engineers, who would be using the setup for the deployment. Yet, in case, say a freshman engineer joins the team, he/she would get confused in case a step is skipped, unless appropriate induction to the wizard is availed to them.

Hence, in order to minimize the overhead of induction, I would preferably keep step 2 with a (not required) hint message and skip it and jump to step 3, as the user clicks the next button.

step 1 of application with step 2 showing "not required" hint

When the user completes step 1, the wizard automatically jumps to step 3 when the user clicks next.

Jump to step 3 when step 1 is completed

Yet when the user manually clicks step 2 on the sidebar, the wizard navigates to the step and shows the user the reason the step exists but is not required.

The user opens step 2 from the sidebar

Hopes this serves as a solution to your problem.

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Yup. I'd usually not show step 2 at all.

As for user expectations, Prototype both ideas and put them in front of users.

You have to figure out if the user is expecting to see empty steps, or is the user expecting to see only the steps that require them to do something.

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I like consistency, no matter who is the user. so, I would go with option 2. I don't agree with you about implying there is some way to enable the step since I've not seen this behavior anywhere. I do think, however, that visual design can solve this problem. So I would say, in the cases where step 2 is not required disabled it and skip it. In cases where there is only one step, start with this step and make the button text clear that this is the end of the wizard.

enter image description here

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