Re: Wizard - searching for a definition

Subject: Re: Wizard - searching for a definition
From: Bill Swallow <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2005 10:34:53 -0500

> My company is changing the name of a feature in our software. They want to
> use the word "wizard" as part of the name of this feature. However, some of
> us aren't sure that this feature is technically a "wizard" as one commonly
> encounters it in the software world. Does anyone know of an official,
> technical definition of a wizard that we could use in discussing whether
> what we are doing can legitimately be called a wizard?

>From wikipedia:

A wizard is an interactive computer program acting as an interface to
lead a user through a complex task using dialog steps.

This very general definition does not attempt to distinguish a wizard
from an expert system. This distinction is not clear in the programing
vocabulary. Usually, a wizard searches a database for criteria entered
by the user. A web search engine is the most common type of simple
wizard. Online airline ticket booking is more complex form of wizard

In contrast to Wizards, Expert Systems guide the user through a series
of questions, usually with a yes or no answer. Expert Systems are
built around algorithms or rules rather than databases. Unfortunately,
this distinction is not universal. For example, small rule-based
program to assist the installation of network connections or computer
peripherals in Microsoft Windows are called Wizards. Some consider
Expert System as a general term that include all problem-solving
programs, including Wizards and rule-based programs.

Wizards were very controversial amongst user interface designers when
they were introduced, because they encourage modal windows, which were
considered antithetical to proper human interface design. However,
supporters of Microsoft, the leading adopter of wizards, argued that
compliance with what they considered arbitrary laws should be
secondary to ease of use in user interface design.


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Wizard - searching for a definition: From: Stephen Windham

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