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One of my requirements is to let the users know which fields they are required to fill before they can take an action. The users can take one of three actions save, submit or approve and the required fields are different based on each action. Save requires the least number of fields, submit requires the fields required for save and additional fields and approve requires all the required fields. Users can save once but submit multiple times with revisions.

What is the best way to display required field indicators based on actions that change the set of required fields?

  • Why does "Save" require anything? Presumably "save" means that you aren't done yet and are still working on it. Shouldn't they be allowed to save it regardless of completion level? – NotMe Nov 7 '14 at 20:33
  • Thanks Chris. In order to save the users just need to enter 4 fields which are need to create a record in the database. The users can save multiples times until they are ready to submit the item or approve the item. – maddog Nov 7 '14 at 21:15
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I think you are mixing user interface and technical implementation in your design. This leads to more complex interface and hence cognitive load.

You could deliver more simple mental model to users: you can change everything (draft) until you approve it (final solution). This model is quite familiar to users: they face it when writing email or creating docs (draft 1 − draft 2 − final doc), making multiple purchase (item1 − item2 − checkout), etc.

This allows you to simplify the interface. You need only two buttons there: Save (or Submit) and Approve.

As for tech implementation, you can save in DB any data, until they decide to approve. Then you can check the form and provide error-handling.

If the business logic still requires differentiating Save and Submit actions, you can:

  1. Do not display Approve button until they Submit request, this will simplify UI
  2. Provide in-line error handling for Save and Submit buttons, so they clear understand the Submit required fields. Saving should be possible with any number of filled fields, to convey draft idea
  3. Use auto-save if possible

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