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I'm designing for an app that helps companies generate complex legal documents.

We generally use a wizard with progress noted at the top. The progress can branch quite dramatically. We're faced with a problem where users realize they should have selected another option earlier, so use the wizard to return to the step they need to change - and enter different information. It could be that the information doesn't change anything else, it could be that it renders another step down the line invalid, it could be that it completely changes the path of their wizard.

We're reusing the same framework for dozens if not hundreds of legal processes so we need a UI that works repeatedly.

Where should we tell the user that they are about to over-write everything past this point? When they start entering information into a field on the older page? When they are about to submit conflicting information?

Does anyone have any advice for these types of complex branching wizards where a user might jump back in the progress?

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You should keep the already entered text until the end, as it was a separate branch in the flow. They may choose to switch back to it again.

Before submit, they should be able to see what is being included with perhaps a collapsed section with what is not saying something like "this is info you provided that is not going to be saved or submitted."

  • Agree. Would add that if the same choice or text is requested in a separate flow, then user should at least be able to choose this as an option or the default. This choice or data provided should not be obliterated - that is an avoidable coding choice and not the users desire. – Jason A. Mar 1 '16 at 16:40
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For a complex branching system, you could explore using a dynamic wizard. You don't have to construct the entire flow (start to end) since the steps are going to change dramatically based on what the user keyed in.

Where should we tell the user that they are about to over-write everything past this point? When they start entering information into a field on the older page? When they are about to submit conflicting information?

User likes to be in control. Give them enough information to know where they are going, for your case preferably before they submit their form. You could do it at the point where they moved their cursor (blur) out from a critical field.

You may want to include a undo changes button to revert back the original steps in case they change their mind. Show this button only when they make changes to the previous field.

I have mockup an example of a dynamic wizard for your reference. Feel free to change.



Example of Dynamic Wizard


mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups


Here I adopt a linear approach by showing "just enough" information as oppose to introducing complex branching UI to the user. I like to keep the flow simple, manageable and easy for the user to comprehend.

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