We all know what a wizard is (no, not Luke Edwards)... but I'd like to know what peoples thoughts are on its use in the specific context of noob's with little to no experience beyond email and browsing.

Is the term ubiquitous enough these days that someone with limited software exposure would understand what it is intuitively, or is there a more generic/elegant term that you prefer to use?

  • 2
    What specific type of tool/popup do you have in mind? A "helper" and a "walkthrough/tour" are for different things, and you have answers for both
    – Izkata
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 14:00
  • @Izkata First, I'm not thinking popup at all, I'm thinking the traditional use of the term "wizard" which is a step by step walk through of something complex, where a task is actually performed. Tour != Wizard imo. My question is specifically with relation to the traditional use of wizard and so far the best alternative raised below is assistant because it's both understandable by a noob, and descriptive of it's purpose.
    – oucil
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 14:51

6 Answers 6


Is the term ubiquitous enough these days that someone with limited software exposure would understand what it is intuitively?

The term Wizard was most prevalent in the early Millenium, but even then mostly more advanced users will know what it is. Someone with limited tech exposure ("noob's with little to no experience beyond email and browsing") will not know what a wizard is because the term doesn't relate to any real world concepts.

The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications (Version 3.0) urges technical writers to refer to these assistants as "wizards" and to use lowercase letters. In countries where the concept of wizard does not convey the idea of helpfulness or is offensive (via the suggestion that actual magic is being used),[1] the manual suggests using the term "assistant" instead.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wizard_(software)

A Wizard is also often associated with multi-step installations and operations not introductions to how to use the software.

Ultimately, be very clear and specific on what you are walking the user through. If it's a tutorial, use "Follow our Tutorial" if it's a long ecommerce check out, use "Pay for your Order".

Most users with low technical experience I've encountered shun away from wizards because they usually lead to more difficult questions and the fear of clicking wrongly especially with software installs will increase their avoidance.

I gave a +1 to Oleg for suggesting "Tour" or "Guide" which is great if the tool is introducing the software and it's the user's first time going through.

Other creative terms can be:

  • Overview
  • Aide
  • Orientation

For more: http://thesaurus.com/browse/helper

  • kudos on the MS Manual reference, the term assistant makes a lot of sense! I agree that Oleg's tour and guide make sense in some cases, I also agreed with Franchesca's comment that they're passive while wizard portends more active usability. Thanks for chiming in!
    – oucil
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 13:29
  • 2
    Ironically, "wizards" were specifically created for "noob" users.
    – trysis
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 18:18

I think the term Wizard evokes the idea that you can take a "magical shortcut" to easily do something that should normally be difficult and / or time consuming. This is popular enough in western culture (I can't speak for other areas of the world) to be understandable.


You can choose "tour" or "guide"

  • 1
    A wizard isn't simply a guide though. It is allowing the user to create something, and presenting them with sensible choices for options they may not care about this time around. Guide or tour has more passive connotations.
    – Franchesca
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 13:23
  • 2
    While I can see their use in an introductory type wizard, I'm not sure either could be used for instance in an import tool... i.e. "Import Wizard" I wouldn't expect to ever use the word Wizard in association with any kind of introduction, ime a wizard is a step by step walk through for something complex.
    – oucil
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 13:23

Why not use the term assistant? That's simple, but if you can, you probably should avoid using any similar term at all.

As some others mentioned, the term wizard might be confusing or have the wrong meaning in some other regions or cultures.

  • @Pdxd showed as much in his answer and reference materials from Microsoft, with the reference actually stating explicitly that assistant is the preferred alternative. But you can see why I asked the question in the first place.
    – oucil
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 14:53

No, not in isolation. But th is rather not how the term Wizard is commonly used. A real-world example would be a "Setup Wizard". This works especially well if the user wants to perform the task to which the adjective refers, but is looking for guidance. I.e. "I want to set up my printer, there's a Setup Wizard, I will need that."

So, don't focus on alternatives for the word Wizard. Make clear what the wizard does.


The term wizard in and of itself I do not think is enough to describe what you are trying to do, however with the proper wordage it should do just fine.

In my own experience I have seen this term used the most during the application installation process. For example

Wizard Installation or Custom Installation

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