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I am building a feature where the user goes through a multistep wizard to enter information about a situation. There are multiple situations that can occur and the user may be taken through different steps with different fields depending on their choices. I want to persist the information the user has previously entered to the side of the wizard so the user does not lose situational awareness because there is a possibility that the user may be multitasking with multiple wizards open at the same time.

  • Is there a name for this?
  • Are there arguments for or against using this specific solution?
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Users should never have to remember information from one screen to another (ux-discovery). Users should also always have feedback that makes them aware of their current status (in this case the progress they have made through the wizard) (ux-feedback). I would say that providing a little summary panel / column at the left side of the wizard is good practice in the scenario you describe.

ux-discovery Users should be able to discover functionality and information by visually exploring the interface, they should not be forced to recall information from memory. [Source: Nielsen]

ux-feedback Interfaces should provide feedback about their current status. Users should never wonder what state the system is in. [Source: Nielsen]

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Yes and No.

This begs the question: Why would one need to have persisting information from one screen to another in the wizard in the first place?

Here are some examples that show both cases.

Tax Applications and Long Wizards

Tax Applications such as Quicktax forces the user to go through a number of wizards but only persists the absolutely necessary data (Refund or Owing).

quicktax

In this case, it will still output the summary package at the end of the process but while the user is filling in the information, it is easier to jump nonlinearly between wizards so they can see their answers within context then summarizing 20 pages on the side.

eCommerce

Alternatively, the case to have the information persist within a wizard is in summarizing an ecommerce order.

Here's an example from orderit.ca:

orderit

On Demand

Another solution to consider is having persistent information accessible via a navigational option on demand.

pizza pizza

Mobile

Special consideration will need to be made for mobile users due to limited screen space. It will depend on the same factors as listed above:

  • Amount of screen estate available
  • Whether the information is of primary value to the user
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I would limit the wizard's situational awareness assistance to a progress bar or "steps completed" checklist on a sidebar, and provide the user with a summary of their entries at the end. I would also provide them with visible ways back and forth within the wizard.

I would think putting the user's entries up on the screen would likely cause distraction and visual clutter.

Your comment about "multiple wizards open at once" concerns me, since a wizard's purpose is to force the user to take one action at a time. A good way to present a wizard is in a modal window to suggest to the user that they should not be doing anything else except what is in front of them.

Think of a wizard as an expert guide who knows more than the user. The wizard says, "Do this." Once you've done it, the wizard takes all the content you've provided in that step and whisks it away from view, as if to say, "All right, I know what to do with that. You don't need to worry about it anymore... Now do this." So the wizard handholds the user more than any other interface, with the intention of putting him/her at ease.

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