On the surface, a Mentor Wizard application looks and operates very much as the typical wizard found in Windows, Macintosh or Unix applications (see upper screenshot, below). The MentorWizard display (see lower screenshot, below) includes a status panel at the top, a large panel full of widgets that takes up most of the Mentor Wizard's window, and a tool bar of buttons at the bottom. The central panel displays what are called steps. Users "take" a step by interacting with one or more controls that appear in a step, and then move to the next step in a process. That is, when the user is done with the current step, a new step is displayed in the central panel, replacing the current one. The user experience is one of a sequence of "steps" that he or she may use to perform the tasks that make up a business process.
The choreography of a Mentor Wizard application is quite simple. Each MentorWizard task and sub-task is divided into a sequence of steps. Each step presents one issue to the user. The steps in a task ask the user to enter some data or define actions that the application should take at the end of the task in support of a business process. User input is saved during each step but acted on only at the end of a task. This allows the user to go back without penalty during a task. At the end of a task the user is asked to confirm, in a formal confirmation step, the storage of data and/or execution of actions specified during the task.
A step can require arbitrary input from a user (example: enter a mailing address) or ask the user to select from a list of options (example: specify a client's citizenship status). In either case, the step presents not only the necessary data input or option selection widgets, but also the information the user needs in order to understand exactly what each datum and/or option means. A short description of each option is presented on the step itself and additional buttons provide access to in-depth descriptions as needed. Application builders can tailor this descriptive information to the needs of the users performing each task.
Users select options with a pointing device such as a mouse, a pointing stick, a touch pad, or a touch-sensitive screen. Alternatively, users can select an option by tapping on a keyboard key. The user's flow through a task's steps is enhanced by the fact that, for simple selections, only one click, tap or keystroke is needed to select an option and move to the next step. That is, the user doesn't need to select a check box and then select the "Next Step" button. In addition, even though the logic required to identify the next step in the execution of a task may be complex, the next step is displayed fast enough that it seems to appear instantaneously. That is, the user is never distracted by any delay in the arrival of the next step as soon as the user is ready for the next step, it is there, waiting for the user. This allows the user to traverse a sequence of steps rapidly, as appropriate for those who perform business process tasks repeatedly. Users often lose track of the fact that they are using a computer and focus single-mindedly on the task.