non-linear progress indicator

12 Nov 2003 - 12:42pm
10 years ago
5 replies
1031 reads
Jon-Eric Steinbomer
2003

Hello All,

I'm currently re-designing an application with the requirement that the
user be informed of their progress within a given process. All of the
individual processes save one are linear. Currently the linear
processes' progress is indicated in a "step x of x" manner (with the
non-linear showing no progress indicator).

Clearly, the stepped scheme will not work for a non-linear process as it
could be 5 steps or 10, depending on which decision path is taken, so
there could be no indication of how many steps fill follow step 1. My
fix for this right now is to change the progress indicator from a
stepped scheme to one of percentage. So, one could start at 0% complete,
then to perhaps 33%, then 75%, etc.

I know this is not a perfect solution but I reason that a change in
"percentage complete" is less traumatic than one in steps (i.e. going
from 33% done to 45% done vs. step 3 of 5 changing to step 4 of 10).

Does this sound like a reasonable idea or is there a more appropriate
solution?

Many Thanks in advance.

Jon-Eric

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Comments

12 Nov 2003 - 1:03pm
vutpakdi
2003

Jon-Eric,

If I understand your situation correctly, the user is progressing
through some sort of workflow / series of tasks, and the number of tasks
varies by the path taken. The user is
If my understanding is correct, the percentage indicator would
certainly be a reasonable approach. Another approach might be to use a
graphical indicator in the form of a progress bar. One advantage of the
progress bar would be that it would be a little less obvious that the
progress indicator was jumping via an odd percentage. With a text display,
the user might think it odd that at first, the progress was jumping by, say
20%, but later progress was jumping by a different percentage.
You would still need to make sure that it would appear that progress is
being made at each step. You also would want to avoid situations where it
appears that the percentage of work accomplished has decreased (for
example, going from 33% complete to 20% complete). I could imagine that
situation where the first step is common between a 3 step path and a 10
step path. If the indicator (either one) goes from 33% to 20% on the
second step, it'll look funny. In the above case, you might always set the
first step's indicator to be the smallest percentage of the two possible
paths (10%) and then advance it appropriately once the user picks one path
or the other.

Ron

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============================================================================
Ron Vutpakdi
vutpakdi at acm.org

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12 Nov 2003 - 3:33pm
Josh Seiden
2003

Don't know about the solution, but I do know some
questions that I would ask:

1. What's the point of the progress indicator?
2. What are the consequences of getting this
information right/wrong?

Will users abandon if they see 12 steps remaining? What
is tolerable?
Are users in a hurry?
Do users need to know where they are?
Do they need to know that as a consequence of their
choices in step x, step y will be different, and
perhaps onerous?
Do users have a problem keeping track of what they've
already done? Do they need to?
How much time will the process take? Minutes? Hours?
Days? Years?
Will they likely need to go to the library for more
information after step 19?
Will they need a coffee break while step 13 is
processing?
Do they need to navigate the process? To undo branches?

Sometimes, I find it's just helpful to go back to first
principles.

JS

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interact
iondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.
interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of jon-eric
steinbomer
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 12:43 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] non-linear progress indicator

Hello All,

I'm currently re-designing an application with the
requirement that the user be informed of their progress
within a given process. All of the individual processes
save one are linear. Currently the linear processes'
progress is indicated in a "step x of x" manner (with
the non-linear showing no progress indicator).

Clearly, the stepped scheme will not work for a
non-linear process as it could be 5 steps or 10,
depending on which decision path is taken, so there
could be no indication of how many steps fill follow
step 1. My fix for this right now is to change the
progress indicator from a stepped scheme to one of
percentage. So, one could start at 0% complete, then to
perhaps 33%, then 75%, etc.

I know this is not a perfect solution but I reason that
a change in "percentage complete" is less traumatic
than one in steps (i.e. going from 33% done to 45% done
vs. step 3 of 5 changing to step 4 of 10).

Does this sound like a reasonable idea or is there a
more appropriate solution?

Many Thanks in advance.

Jon-Eric

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13 Nov 2003 - 1:10pm
Anirudha Joshi
2003

I suggest, you could try a solution that is consistent in both cases and
yet gives a good idea to the person of where he is. Show it like a
subway map. There are stations that are milestones. You get from the
beginning to the end, and you are done. Sometimes the map has branches,
at others, its just a straight line. On the whole, it can be a
consistent approach - depending on the complexity of branching.
Anirudha

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of jon-eric steinbomer
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 9:43 AM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] non-linear progress indicator

Hello All,

I'm currently re-designing an application with the requirement that the
user be informed of their progress within a given process. All of the
individual processes save one are linear. Currently the linear
processes' progress is indicated in a "step x of x" manner (with the
non-linear showing no progress indicator).

Clearly, the stepped scheme will not work for a non-linear process as it
could be 5 steps or 10, depending on which decision path is taken, so
there could be no indication of how many steps fill follow step 1. My
fix for this right now is to change the progress indicator from a
stepped scheme to one of percentage. So, one could start at 0% complete,
then to perhaps 33%, then 75%, etc.

I know this is not a perfect solution but I reason that a change in
"percentage complete" is less traumatic than one in steps (i.e. going
from 33% done to 45% done vs. step 3 of 5 changing to step 4 of 10).

Does this sound like a reasonable idea or is there a more appropriate
solution?

Many Thanks in advance.

Jon-Eric

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13 Nov 2003 - 10:50am
Coryndon Luxmoore
2004

There are two reasons to provide an indicator that I can think of off
the top of my head. One is to provide the user some feedback that
progress is occurring and a knowledge on how long the entire process
will take. The second is to give the user some insight into where they
are in the entire process and provides foresight to the user about the
process.

So my suggestion would be to come up with some series of steps that are
linier. Almost any process has some sort of high level steps that are
linear despite all of the exceptions or sub paths. You can then create a
bar that has all those steps labeled and highlight the ones that are
complete. If this does not provide enough granularity you can have
similar bars that appear within each step dynamically.

An application that does something like this very well is TurboTax. They
also provide the user the means to easily navigate back to any step as
well by showing all of the completed steps as an outline.

Example:

*Step 1*
Step 2
Step 3

*Step 1*
*Substep 1*
Substep 2
Substep 3
Step 2
Step 3

--Coryndon

__________________________________________________________
Coryndon Luxmoore
Design Architect
Dakasa
133 Federal Street
Boston, MA 02110
USA
e: <mailto:cluxmoore at dakasa.com> cluxmoore at dakasa.com
t: 617.292.7700
f: 617.292.7704
____________________________________________________________
This email message and any files transmitted with it contain
confidential information
intended only for the person(s) to whom this email message is addressed.
If you
have received this email message in error, please notify the sender
immediately by
telephone or email and destroy the original message without making a
copy.
Thank you.

Dakasa
t: 617.292.7700
____________________________________________________________

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of Joshua Seiden
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 3:34 PM
To: 'jon-eric steinbomer'; discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] non-linear progress indicator

Don't know about the solution, but I do know some questions that I would
ask:

1. What's the point of the progress indicator?
2. What are the consequences of getting this information right/wrong?

Will users abandon if they see 12 steps remaining? What is tolerable?
Are users in a hurry?
Do users need to know where they are?
Do they need to know that as a consequence of their choices in step x,
step y will be different, and perhaps onerous?
Do users have a problem keeping track of what they've already done? Do
they need to?
How much time will the process take? Minutes? Hours? Days? Years?
Will they likely need to go to the library for more information after
step 19?
Will they need a coffee break while step 13 is processing?
Do they need to navigate the process? To undo branches?

Sometimes, I find it's just helpful to go back to first principles.

JS

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of jon-eric steinbomer
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 12:43 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] non-linear progress indicator

Hello All,

I'm currently re-designing an application with the requirement that the
user be informed of their progress within a given process. All of the
individual processes save one are linear. Currently the linear
processes' progress is indicated in a "step x of x" manner (with the
non-linear showing no progress indicator).

Clearly, the stepped scheme will not work for a non-linear process as it
could be 5 steps or 10, depending on which decision path is taken, so
there could be no indication of how many steps fill follow step 1. My
fix for this right now is to change the progress indicator from a
stepped scheme to one of percentage. So, one could start at 0% complete,
then to perhaps 33%, then 75%, etc.

I know this is not a perfect solution but I reason that a change in
"percentage complete" is less traumatic than one in steps (i.e. going
from 33% done to 45% done vs. step 3 of 5 changing to step 4 of 10).

Does this sound like a reasonable idea or is there a more appropriate
solution?

Many Thanks in advance.

Jon-Eric

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13 Nov 2003 - 11:07pm
rk
2004

MessageMy 2 bits on this:

- This is what I visualize of the problem - One Activity comprising of multiple tasks, not one after another (so some of them take place simultaneously) and not all tasks are of same duration. This is like a classic gant chart that we see in a project plan.
Probably just indicating the progress in the form of task n/m completed might not be enough as its not a good indicator of the time remaining for eg. in a case where the last step takes 50% of the time.

One way to display this would be depicting each task in the form of a bar. So if the Activity comprises of 10 task, show a bar graph with 10 bars, the height of the bar indicates the time it takes. Colors of the bars can change based on the progression of each task. More information can be added if required about the total time required for the entire Activity and what has been consumed.

Regards,
-ramesh krishnan
-
----- Original Message -----
From: Coryndon Luxmoore
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Sent: Thursday, November 13, 2003 9:20 PM
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] non-linear progress indicator

There are two reasons to provide an indicator that I can think of off the top of my head. One is to provide the user some feedback that progress is occurring and a knowledge on how long the entire process will take. The second is to give the user some insight into where they are in the entire process and provides foresight to the user about the process.

So my suggestion would be to come up with some series of steps that are linier. Almost any process has some sort of high level steps that are linear despite all of the exceptions or sub paths. You can then create a bar that has all those steps labeled and highlight the ones that are complete. If this does not provide enough granularity you can have similar bars that appear within each step dynamically.

An application that does something like this very well is TurboTax. They also provide the user the means to easily navigate back to any step as well by showing all of the completed steps as an outline.

Example:

*Step 1*
Step 2
Step 3

*Step 1*
*Substep 1*
Substep 2
Substep 3
Step 2
Step 3

--Coryndon

__________________________________________________________
Coryndon Luxmoore
Design Architect
Dakasa
133 Federal Street
Boston, MA 02110
USA
e: cluxmoore at dakasa.com
t: 617.292.7700
f: 617.292.7704
____________________________________________________________
This email message and any files transmitted with it contain confidential information
intended only for the person(s) to whom this email message is addressed. If you
have received this email message in error, please notify the sender immediately by
telephone or email and destroy the original message without making a copy.
Thank you.

Dakasa
t: 617.292.7700
____________________________________________________________

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Joshua Seiden
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 3:34 PM
To: 'jon-eric steinbomer'; discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] non-linear progress indicator

Don't know about the solution, but I do know some questions that I would ask:

1. What's the point of the progress indicator?
2. What are the consequences of getting this information right/wrong?

Will users abandon if they see 12 steps remaining? What is tolerable?
Are users in a hurry?
Do users need to know where they are?
Do they need to know that as a consequence of their choices in step x, step y will be different, and perhaps onerous?
Do users have a problem keeping track of what they've already done? Do they need to?
How much time will the process take? Minutes? Hours? Days? Years?
Will they likely need to go to the library for more information after step 19?
Will they need a coffee break while step 13 is processing?
Do they need to navigate the process? To undo branches?

Sometimes, I find it's just helpful to go back to first principles.

JS

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of jon-eric steinbomer
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 12:43 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] non-linear progress indicator

Hello All,

I'm currently re-designing an application with the requirement that the user be informed of their progress within a given process. All of the individual processes save one are linear. Currently the linear processes' progress is indicated in a "step x of x" manner (with the non-linear showing no progress indicator).

Clearly, the stepped scheme will not work for a non-linear process as it could be 5 steps or 10, depending on which decision path is taken, so there could be no indication of how many steps fill follow step 1. My fix for this right now is to change the progress indicator from a stepped scheme to one of percentage. So, one could start at 0% complete, then to perhaps 33%, then 75%, etc.

I know this is not a perfect solution but I reason that a change in "percentage complete" is less traumatic than one in steps (i.e. going from 33% done to 45% done vs. step 3 of 5 changing to step 4 of 10).

Does this sound like a reasonable idea or is there a more appropriate solution?

Many Thanks in advance.

Jon-Eric

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