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July 12, 2005


Mark Bramley

The point of having a progress bar is twofold:
1) to know something is still happening and that the machine hasn't hung.
2) to have an idea when a lengthy operation will finish, so I know when I can continue the task which requires the operation to finish.

An "estimated time to completion" countdown serves these purposes much better than a progress bar offering an uncalibrated "percentage complete" number.

Just for fun, it could include variable length suggestions like wait a minute, make a cup of coffee, take a nap, go to bed...

Chaz Haws

First off, let me say that I love this blog. These are all good solid suggestions, and very clearly written. Thank you!

On this particular point, I've always felt that the best progress bar I've ever seen was the spinning globe in Internet Explorer. It doesn't communicate any idea of length, because it doesn't know any. But it never lies to you! And it's actually quite easy to duplicate with a more thematically appropriate animation.

I like the other suggestions, though! "Go get lunch, this one's gonna take a while!"

Scott Saad

Thank you for this blog! Nice work and I'm hoping for others to pop up in the near future.

Progress bars definitely have their limitations. There are times, however, when an operation could take a very long time. For example, if the user is requesting tons of data from a database. Currently, there is no progress information given back from the database (it could take forever if it wanted to). How do you recommend communicating this to the user, without completely freezing the UI?

Max Howell

With my interfaces I either show one progress bar per operation (rather than start the progress again for each operation), or say "Step 1 of 3" or whatever above the bar. For really fast operations I prefer the second, because 1 progress bar refilling 3 times in under 5 seconds makes the whole operation feel really fast.

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