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I currently have an annoying discussion with one of the business guys as he wants to turn a freely configurable tool into a stepper. First of all the tool don't have mandatory steps, it's more like a wide range of things you could add as an extra to a product.

There are 15! available configurations and I think that this is way too much for a stepper. Are there any best practices when it comes to max. amount of items for a stepper?

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    I assume you mean a stepper like a Wizard ('stepper' can refer to lots of controls)? Regardless, we're going to need more details here. Firstly, the answer is currently just 'it depends'. If you're using it for something like applying for and paying a mortgage then 15 steps is not so bad, if it's an 'enter your address' one then 15 is loads. What is the actual use-case here? What is their reason for wanting it to be a stepper? What is it currently? What problem is trying to be solved here?
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 13:07
  • thx for your input. It's a bike configurator and the user has the option to customize some or all of the 15 parameters. I personally think, that forcing the user into a linear flow isn't smart at all as he maybe just want to add something in step 1 and step 15 and all the other options in between aren't interesting for him. So yes, I'm referring to a linear wizard approach here.
    – Cobo Kay
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 5:54

3 Answers 3

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It depends on What you are optimising for

I assume you are trying to optimise for the following:

  1. Reduce overwhelming number of options in a long form (business guy's point I assume)
  2. Give flexibility to the user to jump to the customisations that matter to them (your point)

As the object here is fixed (i,e a bike) I guess a visual selector will help optimise for both values above. Here is a visualisation of the idea (I took from a shot in dribbble) Configurables are hotspotted with the orange dots -> Click to configure whichever they like. The bike can be zoomed for accuracy too.

enter image description here

If this is too much work and your team don't have the time then I suggest:

  1. Create a wizard with 4 or 5 steps max and then have a configurations clustered into each steps. Instead of have a 15 stepped wizard.

Please note that the above answer was written with the minimum information in the question – i.e with minimal understanding of the problem / values to provide, the platform etc.

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    thx for the detailed answer. I will discuss and consider a solution similar to your proposal with my team.
    – Cobo Kay
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 9:25
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I’m curious about the argument for the stepper - are users frequently calling in with complaints that they missed setting something up? Does your business partner want to force the user to see all their choices before moving on to payment?

Long steppers aren’t necessarily annoying to users - but being forced to make more choices than necessary is. Surprising the user at the end of the flow with a larger-than-anticipated price based on their choices is also a horrific experience. But making something seamless to get through, with strong defaults and easy selections, and an ongoing price update, could be a great experience on mobile, where giving one task per screen is ideal.

I think you should test a linear flow vs. a configuration setup and see how your users do. You could give them a set of specs and see how long it takes them to complete the setup. You could also test task accuracy, if missed attributes are the concern. Run it like a science experiment and see if your business partner can support your findings.

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The primary consideration should be the user experience. Steppers are generally used to guide users through a linear process with a few discrete steps. If you have too many steps, it can overwhelm users and make the tool less user-friendly.

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  • This is not really answering the question. Also try to be as comprehensive and helpful as possible when answering. Where possible add examples, resources etc.
    – jazZRo
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 15:04

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