Designing Effective Wizards: A Multidisciplinary Approach


  • Users want wizards—but there are no books devoted to wizard design!
  • Nuts-and-bolts guide to designing wizards
  • Includes checklists and examples
  • The complete guide to wizard design.
  • Practical usability ...
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  • Users want wizards—but there are no books devoted to wizard design!
  • Nuts-and-bolts guide to designing wizards
  • Includes checklists and examples
  • The complete guide to wizard design.
  • Practical usability and design techniques for successful wizard and software projects

All you need to know to build wizards your users will love:

  • Extensive lists of questions for gathering requirements
  • Iterative design and evaluation techniques
  • Guidelines for general page layout, controls, and navigation
  • Visual design tips and techniques for attractive and enticing wizards
  • Launchpad solutions for linking wizards
  • Advice for interactive feedback, error prevention, error recovery, and on-line help
  • Accommodate any user—experts and novices, worldwide audiences, multiple platforms, plus accessibility for users with special needs!

Designing Effective Wizards: A Multidisciplinary Approach is the first "nuts and bolts" how-to guide for designing wizards that help users perform their tasks. This book brings together key insights from a multidisciplinary team, including usability experts, technical writers, and visual designers—presenting a start-to-finish process for effective wizard design. The authors identify key issues and challenges encountered during the wizard development process, and IBM's best solutions.


  • CD-ROM that contains interactive samples to help you explore the concepts of color, typography, layout, navigation, and launchpads for wizards. It also contains the screens from the case-study installation
  • Extensiveexamples throughout
  • A start-to-finish case study
  • Practical checklists, summaries, and sample forms

This is a "nuts and bolts" how-to guide that will help readers understand how to design wizards for software applications. It will also address the different roles and skills needed throughout the wizard design cycle. The book will contain a CD-ROM with valuable case studies and interactive examples.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130923776
  • Publisher: Pearson Education
  • Publication date: 8/27/2001
  • Edition description: BK&CD-ROM
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.94 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

All the authors work at IBM's Silicon Valley Laboratory in San Jose, CA.

Daina Pupons Wickham is a Human Factors Specialist who has designed and tested wizards for multiple IBM products. She has published papers on and filed for patents for her launchpad designs.

Dr. Debra L. Mayhew is a Human Factors Specialist who helped create wizard guidelines for IBM data management products and has worked on wizards for products on multiple platforms.

Teresa Stoll, an Interface Visual Designer, is a member of IBM's Visual Design Board of Directors and oversees the visual design of IBM's award-winning DB2 workstation database product.

Kenneth June Toley III is a Technical Writer who has designed and tested on-line help systems and web pages, and assisted in wizard and dialog interface design.

Shannon Rouiller is a Technical Editor who has written and edited books, on-line help, wizards, and product interfaces for worldwide products.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Kicking off the project

Designing and building an effective wizard involves many different tasks and skills, which are explained in detail in this book. Before you begin work on your wizard, you need to make sure that your idea will work well as a wizard, and then you need to build a team of people with the skills needed for the various aspects of wizard design. You also need to schedule the various activities involved. Good wizard designs begin with strong development teams and effective project management.

This chapter provides you with a guide to the essential factors of a wizard development project to help ensure that your project stays exciting and concludes successfully.

Why plan your project?

A common mistake many teams make when beginning a new and exciting project is to underestimate the skills and resources required to complete the project. For example, a wizard may seem easier to program than a dialog with a similar function because the wizard has fewer choices per page. However, wizards are quite difficult to program because the code must keep track of what path the user takes and update the content of future pages. The process of project planning identifies tasks that must be completed, completion dates for each task, and who is responsible for each task. The benefits of project planning include:
  • You can allow for tasks to be done simultaneously or in the appropriate order. Project planning identifies tasks that team members must complete. Task dependencies are identified and tasks can be arranged accordingly.
  • You can ensure that necessary resources are available. Project planning identifies completion dates for each task and requires you to assign team members and equipment to each task. Project planning also shows the impact to a project if a person is removed from the team or if equipment is not available.
  • You can assess progress and risks to keep the project on schedule. Project planning identifies checkpoints to assess whether the project is proceeding on schedule. If your team is running late, you can identify areas where time needs to be "made up."
  • You can estimate costs for future projects. If you create a project plan and track its success, you can use this data to estimate the time and cost of future projects more accurately.

Is a wizard appropriate for the task?

Wizards were originally developed to help novice users through a task. In recent years, wizards have been utilized in a wider range of situations and for a more diverse target audience. During our internal usability sessions, expert users stated that they often like to use wizards. However, because wizards require a significant amount of resources to design, test, and implement, you must identify whether a task is a good candidate for a wizard. Table 1–1 includes a series of questions to help you determine the appropriateness of a wizard as an aid to helping users complete a task.

Chapter 2, "Gathering requirements," describes task analyses, which are methods to help you collect this information from your target audience. However, your team should have some idea of the answers to these questions before you begin your project.

Team skills

Once you determine that it makes sense to create a wizard, you need to put together a team to design and implement the wizard. Various disciplines come together to produce a successful software design and deploy that software to the user.

To build an effective wizard, your team needs the following members or members with the following skills:

  • Human factors engineer. The human factors engineer helps define the operation of the wizard and how the user will interact with it. The human factors engineer is involved with the design of the user interface, audience analysis, audience definition, user testing, and assessment of the wizard's usability. The human factors engineer can also participate in the wizard's visual design, documentation, packaging, and measuring the performance of the code.
  • Programmer. The role of the programmer on your team is to develop and test the code that will make your wizard function in the intended user environments. The programmer must build the interface of your wizard, write the code that handles user interaction, and handle any software architecture issues. The programmer is responsible for providing adequate feedback mechanisms to the user when errors occur, developing solutions to platform portability problems, and ensuring accessibility.
  • Project manager. The project manager is responsible for acquiring, assessing, and managing the use of project resources. The project manager defines the phases of the product life cycle, determines the start and completion dates for each piece of the project, and writes the plan of execution for the project. During the life of the project, the project manager adjusts the plan of execution to ensure that the primary deliverables of the project are completed by the deadlines.
  • Technical writer. The technical writer is responsible for all of the text that the user will read from the interface of the wizard. This includes on-page instructions and explanations, error messages, and summary informa-tion. If your wizard requires any additional documentation such as help, installation instructions, books, and so on, the technical writer is responsible for producing those documents and designing their structure and basic layout. The technical writer, perhaps in conjunction with a technical editor, implements text style and writing guidelines and maintains the consistency of the language throughout the wizard content. The technical writer is often also involved with translation planning or coordination.
  • Visual designer. The visual designer is responsible for defining the visual look and feel of the wizard. The visual designer is involved with the design of the user interface and ensures visual consistency on each page of the wizard. The visual designer develops the graphics required for the wizard, and incorporates visual design guidelines and corporate branding for the wizard and any materials the wizard is packaged with, including documentation.
Although it is not critical that you have one or more individuals fulfilling each of these roles in any official or exclusive capacity, it is critical that the basic range of skills defined by each of these roles is represented on your team....
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Table of Contents

What's different about this book?
Is this book for you?
How to use this book.
The authors and editor.
1. Kicking off the project.
Why plan your project? Is a wizard appropriate for the task? Team skills. Resources and planning. Summary.

2. Gathering requirements.
Why gather requirements? Wizard design requirements. User definition-Who will be using your wizard? Inherent characteristics. Experience and education. Social and cultural characteristics. A technique for creating user definitions-User surveys. Product definition-What will the wizard do? Purpose and scope of the wizard. Technology and tools used to create the final wizard. A technique for gathering product requirements-Focus groups. Task analysis-What will the user be using the wizard for? Underlying structure of the task. Aspects of the task that can be simplified. A technique for gathering task requirements-Task analysis. Work environment-Where, when, and how will the users be using the wizard? Physical environment. Tools used to access the wizard. Social or workflow-related issues. A technique for gathering work environment-related requirements—Observational study. Competitive evaluation—Who else is creating a similar product or wizard? Aspects and features of competitive products or wizards. A technique for evaluating the competition-Competitive analysis. Summary.

3. Applying the iterative design process.
Why follow the iterative design process?Questions to ask before beginning. Overview of the iterative design process. High-level design iterations. High-level design steps. High-level design tests. Low-level design iterations. Low-level design steps. Low-level design tests. Interactive prototype iterations. Interactive prototype design steps. Interactive prototype design tests. Working product iterations. Working product design iteration. Working product design tests. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

4. Evaluating wizard designs.
Why evaluate wizard designs? Questions to ask before beginning. Usability evaluation techniques. Heuristic evaluation. Design exploration. Design evaluation. Competitive benchmark. Beta or post-release evaluations. Tasks to prepare for usability evaluations. Determine what to test. Recruit and schedule test participants. Prepare documents and questionnaires. Create prototypes. Determine what measures to collect. Conduct pilot tests. Guidelines for conducting usability evaluations. Invite the entire team to participate quietly. Videotape the session as backup. Encourage “talking aloud” . Don't assist the test participant. Consider testing multiple test participants at once. Consider performing remote usability testing. Follow-up tasks for after the usability evaluation. Follow up with thank you notes. Write a summary report. Implement design changes based on your results. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

5. General wizard design.
Why create wizard design guidelines? Questions to ask before beginning. General wizard guidelines. Overall goals of the design. Writing style. Page count. Page-specific wizard design guidelines. First page. Last page. Guidelines for launching dialogs from wizards. Guidelines for wizards on the Web. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

6. Navigation.
Why optimize your wizard's navigation? Questions to ask before beginning. Navigation methods. Back and Next buttons only. Tabs. Table of contents. Pull-down menu. Additional navigational options. Methods to help users estimate their progress through the wizard. Where am I now and where can I go? How do I get to the next page? Where have I been? How much do I have left to do? Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

7. Visual design.
Why does your wizard need a good visual design? Questions to ask before beginning. Physical issues. Layout design—Defining your grids. Window size of the wizard. Orientation. Margins. Columns. White space (a divider and a grouping element). Web layout. Typography. Serif and legibility. Attributes and legibility. Choosing a typeface. Color. Color facts. Color on-screen. Using color in wizards. Color on the Web. Images. Types of images. Resolution and color depth. Compression techniques. Image size. Semantics. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

8. Launchpads and linking wizards.
Why link wizards? Questions to ask before beginning. Methods of linking wizards. Launching one wizard from within another wizard. Launching wizards from launchpads. Design issues for launchpads. The appropriate number of steps for your launchpad. Navigation among wizards, the launchpad, and other supporting dialogs. Dependencies between steps. Progress-related cues. Task progress and dependency cues. Consistency between the launchpad and its wizards. Access to your launchpad. Additional functions that can be supported by a launchpad. Teaching the user the conceptual model of how the product works. Supporting user exploration. Showing users how to do the task without the launchpad. Allowing users to personalize or build their own launchpads. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

9. Interactive feedback.
Why provide feedback? Questions to ask before beginning. General feedback guidelines. Auditory feedback. Feedback while interacting with the wizard. Feedback for controls. Feedback for subtasks related to the wizard. Feedback at the completion of the wizard. Progress indicators. Billboards. Status line. Confirmation dialogs. Displaying the object that your wizard created. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

10. Error prevention and recovery.
Why predict, prevent, and recover from errors? Questions to ask before beginning. Predicting errors. Preventing and reducing errors. All categories of user error. Data entry errors. Missing data errors. Misinterpretations of wizard choices. User-is-stuck errors. User-is-mistaken errors. Incorrect wizard assumptions. Other system errors. Recovering from errors. Inform the user that an error occurred. Help the user fix the error. Avoid all destructive actions. Allow users to cancel and reverse actions. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

11. On-line help.
Why provide help? Questions to ask before beginning. Should you provide help for your wizard? Types of help. Control-level help. Conceptual help. Task help. Implementing help. Pop-up help. Smartfields. Help dialogs. On-line books. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

12. Experts and novices.
Why design wizards for both experts and novices? Questions to ask before beginning. Designs that support experts and novices. Integrating expert and novice functions in wizards. Separating expert and novice functions in wizards. Guidelines for supporting experts. Provide access keys and shortcut keys. Show expert commands. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

13. Accessibility.
Why design for accessibility? Questions to ask before beginning. Types of disabilities. Mobility limitations and limited hand use. Cognitive disabilities. Deaf and hard of hearing. Vision impairments. Speech or language disabilities. Combinations. Understanding users with disabilities. Assistive technologies. Screen readers and Web page readers. Screen magnifiers. Speech recognition systems. Specialized keyboards and keyboard aids. Accessibility guidelines. Implement accessibility APIs. Provide accessible names and descriptions. Support easy keyboard and mouse navigation. Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content. Use redundant cues in your display. Avoid blinking text and flashing objects. Supply orientation and contextual information. Allow user personalization and customization. Design screens that resize cleanly and support older technologies. Provide accessible documentation. Additional sources for guidelines and information. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

14. Worldwide audiences.
Why design for a worldwide audience? Questions to ask before beginning. Localization versus internationalization. Content translation. Write text that is easily translatable into other languages. Support different word orders across languages. Allow the user to select and change the default language for your wizard. Ensure that your first wizard page is well-translated. Consider providing links to another language version. Account for regional differences in the wizard task. Layout translation. Leave room on the wizard pages for expansion. Provide scroll bars and resizable panes. Input translation. Take advantage of the operating system's resource base. Account for regional differences in names and other words. Use unambiguous controls for date and time formats. Support flexible formatting for numbers, monetary formats, and currency symbols. Account for differences in other data. Graphics for worldwide audiences. Create graphics that are understandable across cultures. Use representative populations. Use checkmarks instead of Xs in check boxes. Limit the file size and color depth of your graphics. Choose colors carefully. Practical concerns. Installation and packaging. Schedule. Sending files for translation. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

15. Multiple platforms.
Why design for multiple platforms? Questions to ask before beginning. Visual and interface design—Product consistency versus platform consistency. Option 1: Build a unique design. Option 2: Use the features provided by an off-the-shelf solution. Option 3: Emulate an existing platform design. Option 4: Work with a Web browser. Appearance and behavior differences across platforms. Platform and environment nuances. JavaScript in different browsers and browser versions. Text across platforms. Summary of guidelines discussed in this chapter.

16. Case study: Installation wizard.
Gathering requirements. User definition. Product definition. Task analysis. Design considerations. General design. Navigation. Launchpads. Feedback. Error prevention and recovery. On-line help. Worldwide audiences. Iterative design and evaluation. Launchpad: Welcome. Message 1: Missing prerequisites. Software License Agreement. Select Installation Language. Page 1: Select Installation Type. Page 2: Select Components. Message 2: Previous version of product detected. Page 3: Choose Destination Location. Page 4: “Up and running” . Page 5: Summary. Progress indicator: Installing products. Billboards. Confirmation window: Setup Complete.

Appendix A. Worksheet for gathering requirements.
Appendix B. Sample design checklist.
Appendix C. Sample screener questionnaire.
Appendix D. Sample usability participant agreement.
Appendix E. Sample participant instructions.
Appendix F. Sample scenarios for an installation wizard.
Appendix G. Sample post-evaluation questionnaire.
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Many books on user interface design focus on a single aspect of design, such as how to create graphics for an interface or how to evaluate designs. For large software projects, this makes sense because you will most likely have different people assigned to specific design roles and activities. However, for smaller design projects, such as wizards, you are unlikely to have as many people, but you still require all the skills of a multidisciplinary team.

Designing Effective Wizards is a guide to help readers design, evaluate, and construct wizards for software products. It outlines processes and provides guidelines and methods to help experienced and inexperienced designers and developers approach the challenge of building a wizard given the broad range of specialized skills required. Many of the issues and guidelines discussed in this book can be applied to all software design projects.

What's different about this book?

This book takes a multidisciplinary approach to software wizard design. The authors are a multidisciplinary team consisting of human factors specialists, a visual designer, and a technical writer. We have several years of experience developing products and wizards for worldwide audiences, for complex products, and across multiple platforms. Based on our experiences, we have identified the guidelines and methods that we feel are key to effective wizard design. We provide practical examples, lots of graphics, and checklists. We hope that you find our approach useful, comprehensive, and easy to follow.

Is this book for you?

If you are a human factors engineer, visual designer, software developer, or technical writer, or if you want to understand what each field does-yes, this book is for you. If you are about to create a wizard, then this book will be of direct interest to you. However, even if you are not creating a wizard in the near future, wizard design is a good case study for other types of software projects.

We think this book will be useful if you are a:

  • Human factors specialist
  • Visual designer
  • Software developer
  • Manager
  • Student
  • Software tester, usability evaluator
  • Training specialist
  • Technical writer
  • Project manager

How to use this book

This book consists of three main sections. The first section describes the general process for designing wizards-forming a team, estimating your available resources, gathering requirements, and designing and evaluating your wizards. The second section provides guidelines and issues for specific aspects of wizards-general design, navigation, visual design, error prevention, on-line help, multiple platforms, and so on. The third section provides a case study to show you how to apply the guidelines to design a fictional wizard. You can read the book from beginning to end or simply hone in on the chapters of interest, such as the chapter on visual design.

As you read this book, consider your role on the design team. Target the focus of your reading to the chapters that apply to your tasks first, then to the team as a whole. Each chapter contains a topic introduction, a section explaining why the topic is important, a section that lists the questions to answer before you begin, the main sections related to the chapter topic, and a summary of guidelines discussed in the chapter. Table x-1 lists the major topics of this book and their corresponding chapters.

Table x-1 Major topics of the book with corresponding chapters
Process for designing wizards
How to build your team, evaluate whether you should create a wizard, and plan your project Chapter 1, "Kicking off the project"
How to gather user and task requirements Chapter 2, "Gathering requirements"
How to use the iterative design process to design an effective wizard Chapter 3, "Applying the iterative design process"
How to conduct usability evaluations of your wizard Chapter 4, "Evaluating wizard designs"
Guidelines and issues for specific aspects of wizards
Guidelines and issues for design, including general layout, page areas, controls, visual design, navigation, and linking wizards Chapter 5, "General wizard design"
Chapter 6, "Navigation"
Chapter 7, "Visual design"
Chapter 8, "Launchpads and linking wizards"
Guidelines and issues for interacting with users via wizard feedback and messages, error prevention, and on-line help Chapter 9, "Interactive feedback"
Chapter 10, "Error prevention and recovery"
Chapter 11, "On-line help"
Guidelines and issues to accommodate specific users, including expert and novice users, users with special needs, worldwide audiences, and users on various platforms Chapter 12, "Experts and novices"
Chapter 13, "Accessibility"
Chapter 14, "Worldwide audiences"
Chapter 15, "Multiple platforms"
Case study
Fictional wizard designed using guidelines in this book Chapter 16, "Case study: Installation wizard"

The appendixes provide sample documents that you can use to simplify the process of gathering requirements and conducting usability evaluations of your wizard:

  • Worksheet of questions for gathering requirements
  • Usability design checklist
  • Sample materials for usability testing, such as a participant screener and a post-evaluation questionnaire

The interactive CD-ROM contains samples to help you explore concepts of color, layout,typography, navigation, and launchpads for wizards. It also contains the screens from the case study wizard.

The authors and editor

Daina Pupons Wickham has a Masters degree in Industrial Engineering with an emphasis on Human Factors. She is a Human Factors Specialist at IBM's Silicon Valley Lab in San Jose, CA. Daina has spent over 1000 hours conducting usability tests for products ranging from games to educational software to banking Web sites to databases. She has taught classes for graduate and undergraduate students. Daina has authored and co-authored papers presented at various professional conferences, including the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, and ACM's Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction. In addition, Daina has several patents filed for her launchpad and wizard designs.

Dr. Debra L. Mayhew has a Ph.D. in Ergonomics from North Carolina State University. She is a Human Factors Specialist at IBM's Silicon Valley Laboratory in San Jose, CA and has designed, coded, and tested wizards for five years and general software products for 19 years. Over the years, Debra has administered usability tests to hundreds of users. Debra has several patents filed for launchpad and wizard designs. She has authored papers on gathering user definitions and task requirements, usability design processes, and speech recognition systems. Recently, Debra led a multidisciplinary team to create a set of consistency guidelines for wizards used across IBM data management products.

Teresa Stoll is an Interface Visual Designer at IBM's Silicon Valley Laboratory in San Jose, CA. She is a member of IBM's Visual Design Board of Directors, and oversees the visual design of IBM's award-winning DB2 workstation database product. Teresa holds a Bachelors degree in Graphics Communication from Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Atzcapotzalco. She has five years of experience in interface visual design, and has a colorful resume, which includes seven years in the film industry and eight years in corporate identity and editorial design and multimedia. Teresa has co-authored papers and filed patents on launchpad designs.

Kenneth June Toley III has a Bachelor of Science degree in Technical Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. Ken is a Technical Writer at IBM's Silicon Valley Laboratory in San Jose, CA. He has designed and tested on-line help systems and Web pages, and assisted in wizard and dialog interface design for various products, ranging from databases to distance learning software. In addition, Ken has designed and coded multimedia tools.

Shannon Rouiller has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Shannon has over 14 years of experience writing and editing technical information, including books, on-line help, wizards, and product interfaces for worldwide products. Shannon is a Technical Editor at IBM's Silicon Valley Laboratory, where she also worked on the team to create wizard guidelines for IBM data management products. Shannon has published articles on on-line help and is a co-author of the award-winning Developing Quality Technical Information, Prentice Hall, 1998.

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