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I am designing the User Registration Wizard for a web application. Users register as part of a company, and sometimes that company is part of a larger network/group of companies. So there are various methods of registering:

As a New User of a New Company with no network/group affiliations

As a New User of an Existing Company with no network/group affiliations

As a New User of a New Company with network/group affiliations

As a New User of an Existing Company with network/group affiliations

These options will determine at what point during the wizard the user begins, and how many steps they will have to complete. For example a user registering a new company will have to complete a Company Registration details screen (2 steps), where as those already with a company must only select their company from a list (controlled by fuzzy search and location to limit exposure) (1 step).

My question is, what is the best way to display progress elapsed/remaining when the user's journey will entirely depend on decisions they make through the process? If the longest route possible (7 steps) is chosen this would appear an unnecessarily arduous journey for the user who takes the short path (4 Steps), and jumping multiple 'progress bar' steps will not give an accurate picture of the steps elapsed or remaining (and the progress value/weight of each step), negating the point of having a progress bar.

Any thoughts?

Unfortunately the web application is for use by business with Financial Services connections so there are requirements to gather lots of information.

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Why not simply putting all of the registration process on one single page instead of having severals separated steps ? In my opinion the advantages would be multiple, the user would be immediately aware of how big is the registration form, and of what informations they need to fill it.

For example, when the user comes to your registration page, you could display him all the kinds of registrations, and when he would select a kind, you would add the corresponding fiels under it. For me, it really is the most natural and most user friendly way to do that, because it makes the registration process smoother in many ways.

EDIT (about a possible way to improve the UX) : When I see your question, it also makes me think about something : is it absolutely necessary to ask your user to choose his kind of registration ? I don't know if it's because I am not a native english speaker, but when I saw all those possibilities, I had to read them twice to really get an idea of their differences.
This is really just an idea that we should think about more deeply to see if it's really got for the UX, but why not giving a single kind of registration where you would put a text field and ask to the user to enter his company name if he have one, and if he does, you would search for it in your database to see if this company exists, and if it does not, you would then give him the possibility to add his company to your database.

EDIT #2 :
And when I see these two kinds of registration :

As a New User of an Existing Company with no network/group affiliations
As a New User of an Existing Company with network/group affiliations

Couldn't you merge these two kinds into a single one, and automatically look into your database to see if the company have or not network/group affiliation ?

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    Playing devil's advocate, I don't believe the original poster was suggesting having those as the labels of the first choice the user would make. I believe he was elaborating the permutations of user circumstances that will affect the length of the registration process. – Tim FitzGerald Jul 22 '14 at 0:27
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Another alternative is using Tab, that can you enable or disabled depending of the context. In this example you enable/disable the Step 3.

http://jsfiddle.net/V7GTY/2/

enter image description here

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I don't know what your time restraints are or how advanced a solution you have time for so let me give you a couple recommendations:

1) Breadcrumbs. As the user goes along, the list of steps populates. If they don't need to do a particular step, don't even show it.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

2) One form. Everything would be on one form, as another answer has suggested, but you would only show a section for company details if they select "New Company" as their company. For example, if they were part of a new company, they would see this:

mockup

download bmml source

I think the second option is a better experience, but if time is a limiting factor, the first option may be better. Of course, these are far from your only options, but they were the first I thought of.

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    Seems like a Breadcrumb might be tricky to design if the user goes into a workflow and also has a progress step indicator combined with a Breadcrumb that changes depending on user input. – Michael Lai Jul 21 '14 at 22:55
  • My issues with a single form in this scenario are that: later questions are contingent on previous responses; a form does not really allow for multiple points of entry (some users may need to start at the beginning; others with a bespoke URL can start half way through as the system can set a registration template based on existing data); there is potentially too much information to put in a single form without it seeming daunting to the user – OpenTage Jul 22 '14 at 9:11
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As users can begin and finish registration at different points depending on their circumstances a Wizard seems like the most practical solution. Breadcrumbs seem like a good solution but they do not provide any concept of an end point, breadcrumbs could theoretically go on forever which the user would not want.

I was thinking a percentage based tracker might work, all users finish with a page confirming their registration so we know that is 100%, wherever they start we mark as 0%, and although the number of steps between those two points will vary depending on the responses of a percentage figure could jump between steps so the user would think they are progressing faster through some sections than others - This is not ideal as it does give the user an understanding of the relative value (distance covered) of each step in the wizard. enter image description here

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