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Becca Price is designing a wizard <<... that copies multi-dimensional data
from one database to another and creates a model. It is 15 screens long.
Every step is required.>>
If every step is _required_, then you don't have an awful lot of wiggle room
to change things, do you? And unless it's the login wizard for an online
porn site, making it sexy simply isn't going to happen: most tasks we do
with software are tedious,and just get in the way of letting us do what we
really want to do. Less facetiously, your problem becomes twofold: first,
examine the process to determine whether all the steps are really as
necessary as you think (some may turn out to be habit or "nice, not
necessary"), and second, combine any steps that could be logically combined.
A few thoughts:
<<Screen 1: Introduction and Selection of 1) Copy from Database A to
Database B 2) Copy from Database B to Database A 3) Fast update from
Database B to Database A>>
Delete the introduction, or make it available through a "Help" or "More
details" button. It's useful the first time someone uses the wizard, but
grows increasingly annoying thereafter. And shouldn't screen 2, the login
and database selection, precede this screen? In other words, why let users
select what they want to before they've logged in and confirmed that they
actually have permission to do it?
<<Screen 2: Enter UserID and Password. Select Database name.>>
If they do this first, they've already selected one of the two databases and
no longer need to select it again on what you called screen 1. So during the
login, they've already removed one step that they don't have to do in the
next step. Unless you're logging into database C, then deciding on
sub-databases A and B?
Should probably be combined: when you name the model, you should also define
<<Screens 5-13: Select members of each dimension Basically, one
screen for each of 9 dimensions: the process is the same - very
like copying styles from one MS Word document to another - but
the content in the selection list will be different.>>
This is tailer made for an approach based on pick lists. Put all 9
dimensions at the left of the screen, with drop-down menus or some other
form of pick list to the right of each dimension. All you do is select from
the options displayed to the right of the dimension (the members). Result?
Users fill in 9 options in a single screen, and can see all the results of
their choices in a single display. If there are many choices, this could get
cluttered, but good design might solve that problem too.
<<Screen 14: Review of previous selections>>
Unnecessary if you follow my previous suggestion, and all 9 settings are
already visible on the screen.
<<Screen 15: Model created successfully (or not)>>
This could be avoided entirely if you include validity checks for each
field. When users make a selection, they should receive immediate feedback
on whether it's legal so they can correct it right away if it's not. Whether
the model actually does what the user intends it to do is another story
entirely, but successful creation should be automatic and probably shouldn't
require user acknowledgment. Think, for example, how annoying it would be if
you had to click OK everytime Word saved a file for you!
"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer