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Currently I'm designing a form wizard which will be use in the website. My reason for not putting the button on the form is because I want the user to never press back and so must finish the form.

My question is should I put a back button on my form wizard? Is the back button really important on the form wizard?

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    You want your users to finish the form, even when what they've filled in is incorrect? What is the point in that? – JBentley May 31 '17 at 15:03
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    Since this is a website, you should also ensure that the browser's back button behaves the same as any back button you add within the page – MTCoster May 31 '17 at 17:00
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    @Mindwin I agree this is how a multi-page form should be implemented, but it's possible to manipulate the browser history, particularly of note is the history.pushState() function which you can use to add 'virtual' pages to the browser's history stack to represent each page of your form. – MTCoster May 31 '17 at 17:29
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    I completely agree with @MTCoster. The back button already exists and should be leveraged. An argument could be made that a wizard built utilizing AJAX, while bypassing the the browser's built-in back/forward buttons, actually hurts usability. Imagine Grandma using the wizard, then half-way through clicks the back button to make an adjustment, except it takes her to Yahoo. How confusing is that? Too often single page apps are implemented in such a way that they're two steps forward and one step back. – Ben Harrison May 31 '17 at 19:22
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    @MTCoster this conceptual argument could drag for years. Pushing a virtual page URL into the history has a problem. Any URL could be bookmarked, and accessed in any point in time. Do that mid-wizard URL make sense one month from now? Probably not. – Mindwin Jun 1 '17 at 13:22
55

Simple modal wizard with back links

Allowed but not emphasized

The key is to provide the ability to step back, but not encourage it. If it's over-emphasized, some people will feel compelled to review their work regardless.

The example above shows a wizard that allows stepping back either through the progress indicator (click a number) or a subtle back link.

A little background: Users are insecure

Decision anxiety is a real thing, however small it might be in a given context. In a wizard, you're asking a person to commit to each step along the way. As people decide to submit their answers and proceed to the next form, some percentage will experience uncertainty about the preceding responses or about current responses in relation to them.

At this point, you must provide a way to step back and review or you risk abandonment. At the very least, that person will be unsatisfied with the process and have some distaste toward the experience.

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    +1 for "Allowed but not emphasised" – onewhaleid Jun 1 '17 at 0:10
59

The back button is important. Users should be able to correct any mistakes and review what they have already entered. Also, I do not find the back button a reason users will not finish the form, on the contrary the back button will give them a sense of control and safety.

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    Adding to this, I find it better to have tabs along the top so a user can navigate to a previous state so they can go from the 4th state back to the 2nd in one click rather than having to click the back button twice. – George May 31 '17 at 7:54
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    Also adding to this: I've encountered many "wizards" where something on, say, the 3rd tab makes me realise that what I entered on the 1st or 2nd tab wasn't the right thing -- if there wasn't a "back" button (or freely selectable tabs), then the alternative would be to dismiss the wizard and start again. Obviously, careful design and appropriate "how to fill me in" notes can reduce the chances of this happening, but I doubt they will ever eliminate it. – TripeHound May 31 '17 at 8:30
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    @TripeHound Great point, I just want to add a bit to it. If this is a form wizard for something non-essential, not having a back button can be really detrimental. If I was on the fence about bothering to fill out your form for whatever reason, having to restart (due to lack of back button) could be a dealbreaker for me. After I exit the wizard there is a definite chance I wont bother to restart it unless I have a good reason to use it. – JMac May 31 '17 at 11:14
  • Which back button is important? The one built in to the browser, that the OP should take care not to break, or the one they are considering adding to their website? – bdsl Jun 1 '17 at 0:05
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    @bdsl The wizard's back button on their website – DesignerAnalyst Jun 1 '17 at 5:16
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Considering something like a survey, I might want to move information betweens answer (or copy it). If I can't, I'm quite likely to think that the whole thing is a waste of time, and give up. Stopping the user from going back may have the opposite effect to what you want Similarly if the browser back button breaks anything, they're probably not finishing whatever your wizard is for.

If it's something the user really wants/needs to do (e.g. compulsory trainign), anything you do to try to force them not to go back will only lead to frustration. If it's something like a job application they will need the ability to edit answers in the light of further questions -- they may have given their best example of leadership as an example of time management, and need to swap those answers.

2

If you can't go back, and you can't cancel or save, then you leave your users with no choice but to close the browser if they really want to back out of the process.

Ideally you should never force the user to find a way to try and do what they want to do, and instead you should try to accommodate or anticipate their needs.

Having said that, if you make your forms short and simple then it is likely that the user will complete it quickly and on the first attempt. That's the best way to make sure that the users don't have to go back.

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