Progress Trackers in Web Design: Examples and Best Practices


When designing a large website, especially one that contains a store, you may be required to design a system for ordering online, or a multi-step process of another sort. Walking users through this process by making it easy and intuitive is key to helping increase conversion rates. Any frustration along the way may cause them to leave and pursue other options. Progress trackers are designed to help users through a multi-step process and it is vital that such trackers be well designed in order to keep users informed about what section they are currently on, what section they have completed, and what tasks remain.

In this article we will look at various uses of progress trackers and see how they’ve been implemented, what they are doing well, and what they are not doing well.

What are Progress Trackers?

You may not be familiar with the term ‘progress tracker’, also called a ‘progress indicator’ — but chances are good that you have encountered one at one time or another. They are used in online stores when placing an order, signing up to an online product or service, or even when booking a holiday online. Progress trackers guide the user through a number of steps in order to complete a specified process.

Progress Tracker Example1
An example of a progress tracker at Game2

The Difference Between Progress Trackers and Breadcrumbs

As we have detailed previously in Breadcrumbs In Web Design: Examples And Best Practices3, breadcrumbs are a way of enhancing navigation by revealing a user’s current location. Initially, breadcrumbs and progress trackers may seem very similar and in many ways they are, however, there are significant differences.

Breadcrumbs show you only where you have been (or what sections are above the current section in the application’s hierarchy), whereas progress trackers indicate a set path that a user follows to complete a specific task. Progress trackers show you not only where you are currently located, but also what steps you have previously taken, and what steps you are about to take.

Breadcrumbs Example4
Example of breadcrumbs at Coolspotters5

Progress trackers are best used when there is a specific goal to achieve. They are synonymous with conversion and are used as a way of improving usability — which is key when optimizing conversion rates6. Conversion is all about selling online so you will see a progress tracker in some form in almost every online store.

Now that we’ve reviewed what a progress tracker is, let’s look at situations that would require or even benefit from the implementation of a well-designed progress tracker.

Uses of Progress Trackers

As mentioned previously, progress trackers can be used in a variety of contexts. The following three are the most common.

1. Online Ordering
By far the most common application of progress trackers is in conjunction with online purchasing, since this usually involves multiple steps.

HMV Online Order Progress Tracker7
The progress tracker used by HMV8.

Etsy Progress Tracker9
The progress tracker used at Etsy10.

2. Feature Tour Guides
Progress trackers are also used to guide users through the features of online products and services, as demonstrated in the following examples:

Search Inside Video's Progress Tracker11
Progress tracker as used by Search Inside Video12.

Flickr's tour page13
Flickr’s tour page14 provides a look at the features of their service.

3. Multi-Step Forms
If a form requires a lot of user input, it may be best to split the form into multiple steps.

Livestream's Channel Creation Form15
Livestream’s16 progress tracker design.

Buffalo's Project Planner Form17
The progress tracker used on Buffalo’s Project Planner form18

Best Practices in Progress Tracker Design

Indicating a Logical Progression
Most progress trackers are designed to display the steps from left to right. In most lands, people read from left to right, so it makes sense that progress trackers follow that pattern. That isn’t enough though — there has to be something that informs the user that they are performing a multi-step process.

Blockbuster's progress tracker19
Blockbuster20 have included both arrows and numbers in their progress tracker, thus clearly communicating a logical progression.

Keeping the User Informed of their Location
One key aspect of good progress tracker design is keeping the user informed of where the user is in the process. This complements the logical progression because the user will know where they are in relation to where they have been, and what sections are to follow.

Urban Original's progress tracker21
Mr and Mrs Smith22 indicates the user’s current location by clearly highlighting the current step and turning the arrow downwards.

Since progress trackers are a form of navigation, it is best to place them below the primary and secondary navigation (such as breadcrumbs) and above the content that the progress tracker relates to. Also, while a progress tracker can act as a page title, it is best to place the title of the current section underneath the progress tracker, to reinforce the current location.

Gamestation's progress tracker23
Gamestation24 places their progress tracker clearly below the primary and secondary navigation.

Implementations of Progress Trackers

Plain Text
Below is an example of a plain text progress tracker on Media Temple’s website25. One benefit of a plain text progress tracker is that it can be edited easily.

Media Temple's Progress Tracker26

Sovereign27 uses the popular CSS sprites technique to build their progress tracker and reduce HTTP requests going through the online booking process.

Sovereign sprite image28

Design Mistakes to Avoid

Indistinguishable from Breadcrumbs
TypePad’s Design Assistant29 can be very easily confused with a breadcrumb navigation system.

TypePad Design Assistant30

Not Enough Information
easyJet31‘s old progress tracker on their booking path was poorly executed. Although it gave you the total number of steps in the process, it didn’t indicate which steps you’ve completed or which were remaining.

easyJet's Old Booking Path32

Their new progress tracker, launched within the last few weeks, is a big improvement, indicating current location, past steps, and steps to come. They now also make good use of the page title which has descriptive wording to complement the current progress tracker label.

Easyjet's New Booking Path33

No Sense of Progression
daniblack34 incorrectly uses a tab system for their progress tracker. The problem with this is that tabs don’t offer any visual representation of progress. The addition of numbers or arrows would give at least some sort of indication of progression in this example.

Progress tracker on daniblack35

Progress Tracker Showcase

Now that we know what a progress tracker is, how it is used, and the best approach to its design, let’s look at a number of well-designed progress trackers currently in use.

Battle.net36 uses the method of incrementally filling a bar as you progress through the steps in their sign-up form.'s progress tracker37


Ikea's progress tracker39

Amazon40 has a shopping trolley travelling across their progress tracker, leaving an orange line marking where it has been.

Amazon's progress tracker41

Organic Supermarket42

Organic Supermarket's progress tracker43


Threadless' progress tracker45

Urban Originals46

Urban Original's progress tracker47


Firebox's progress tracker49


Apple's progress tracker51


Vitradirect's progress tracker53

Mouse to Minx54

Mouse to Minx's progress tracker55


CafePress's progress tracker57


Topshop's progress tracker59

John Lewis60 uses an image of a truck travelling along their progress tracker.

John Lewis's progress tracker61

Comet62 ticks off sections that have already been completed.

Comet's progress tracker63

Boots64‘ Progress tracker spans the width of the page.

Boots' progress tracker65

Web MD66 uses a progress bar and percentage values as a way of tracking progress on their health check questionnaires.

Web MD's progress tracker67


Argos' progress tracker69


Altrec's progress tracker71


SurfRide's progress tracker73


iWorkwear's progress tracker75


Zumiez's progress tracker77


Toys"R"Us' progress tracker79


eBags' progress tracker81

Foot Locker82

Foot Locker's progress tracker83

The Ultimate Green Store84

The Ultimate Green Store's progress tracker85

Crate and Barrel86

Crate and Barrel's progress tracker87

Pistol Clothing88

Pistol Clothing's progress tracker89

American Apparel90

American Apparel's progress tracker91

PC World92

PC World's progress tracker93

Abel & Cole94

Abel and Cole's progress tracker95

Ecco USA96

Ecco USA's progress tracker97

Design Public98

Design Public's progress tracker99

Golfsmith100 uses a combination of numbers and a progress bar with an arrow.

Golfsmith's progress tracker101


PETCO's progress tracker103

Football Fanatics104

Football Fanatics' progress tracker105

The Habitat Company106

The Habitat Company's progress tracker107

Walton Garden Buildings108

Walton Garden Buildings' progress tracker109

lookfantastic110 uses icons to visually enhance their progress tracker.

lookfantastic's progress tracker111


B&Q's progress tracker113

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Tom Kenny is a web designer who runs a web design & development blog called Inspect Element where he writes about everything he learns about web design and you can follow him on Twitter.

  1. 1

    Some good websites on there; I particularly like Ikea. My top three sites (from a design perspective) are,, and

  2. 52

    Very good and useful information. Thanks.

  3. 103

    Nice. Useful information.

  4. 154

    hi….I want the coding for tracking visitor details…..reply with a solution for this soon…i’m waiting for this

  5. 256

    Hmm… I really hoped to see some vertical tracker examples… :(

  6. 307

    so many good ones to choose from. nice work – I think the sprite based holiday one might work for my site holidaystotenerife

  7. 358

    so many good ones to choose from. nice work – I think the sprite based holiday one might work for my site holidaystotenerife

  8. 409

    Nice. Useful information.

  9. 460

    I saw a good example of a step by step cart at

  10. 511

    That was really useful. Thanks very much. I am currently making a website, and the timing of finding this post was nothing short of impeccable.

  11. 562

    That was really useful

  12. 613


    I have seen on a couple of sites where they have a main progress bar showing about 4-5 main steps and then a separate progress bar for the 3 step checkout process. I think they figured it would minimize any exits once they are in the purchase phase since the progress bar doubled as navigation allowing the user to go back.

    There were Back buttons in the purchase pages to go back but that’s really the only way to exit the purchase process. It makes sense but I think there can be arguments for either showing the full progress bar all the way through or showing just the checkout progress bar in the purchase pages.

    Anyone have thoughts on this technique?

  13. 664

    We were advised to implement breadcrumb navigation and progress tracking by our search engine optimisation consultant. Although we went ahead with the breadcrumb navigation we did not implement progress tracking as we could not see the point in doing both.

    Your blog has been very informative and l like the visual examples used, certainly something we will have to discuss with our website designer.

  14. 715

    Just what I was looking for. Thanks for such a great collection!

  15. 766

    My site has a vertical tabbed checkout which can be expanded to see the contents when each step is complete. I read about this and thought that it was a good practice. But I find that there are an awful lot of people starting the form and leaving the page. It comes with the CMS but i guess i can research on how to change it.

    Can i get some views on if this is because of the actual navigation of the form or something else? I thought may be they are looking to check the delivery price and thats why they start the form. But you can check the price without starting the form.


  16. 817

    I’ve seen an increasing number of these systems recently, but not all of them work very well. Quite a lot of them show you where you are in the checkout process, but don’t allow you to go back and edit information you may have entered incorrectly. One of my regular online stores – – doesn’t use this at the minute, but will hopefully be incorporating it in their new site. It should be more commonplace in e-commerce by now.

  17. 868

    This is a great roundup! Thanks so much for sharing. It seems that keeping the user informed of the steps left helps to increase conversion. From what we have tested at this seems to be the best for increasing conversion rates.

    I’d love to know what is the ideal number of steps for a checkout process though.


  18. 919

    Digital Thermometer

    June 21, 2011 4:39 pm

    This is my job, and i am so sorry

  19. 970
  20. 1021

    Nice selection you collected. But what to use on a single page checkout? We are redesigning and thinking to incorporate the single page checkout instead of the 3 or 4-way checkout. Any Idea´s?

  21. 1072

    good post ,i like

  22. 1123

    very interesting tracker showcase, if we don’t have a tracker showcase in the canvashandbagshop, will people buy the product?

  23. 1174

    I am very interested in sports ,such as golf clubs and basketball.http// seems to be a good place which worth your coming.

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  25. 1276

    Very nice article! Thanks for that! I was looking for the right name for this process for a long time, untill I finally found out that it’s called “progress indicator or progress tracker” (thanks to the book of Luke Wroblewski “Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks”).

    What do you think of the possibility to jump between steps within a progress tracker? Do you think this is usefull and adds value? I personaly think it does. I experience too often that it’s not possible and find it very annoying when I, for example, want to recheck my details in the first step and I need to press previous a lot of times because I can’t jump to step 1 immediatly (and then I need to fill in the next steps again sometimes!).
    Next to that, would you display a different state (visually) of the step the user already completed and returns to this step?

    Thanks in advance!

  26. 1327

    This is a great article! Excellent content and examples of what works and what doesnt!

  27. 1378

    that’s a nice collection of the progress truckers. I need to implement for my website as these are really essential to show the user where they are in the process.

  28. 1429

    We find that the progress bar preference changes from time to time. Sometimes a one page checkout works and sometimes it works better one page at a time.

    We used to think that it was the cost of the item or if the item was a high involvement product or low involvement product, but it really depends on where the customer is in the buying channel.

    There has also been talk that the checkout is like an approaching climax for a wanted item in some cases where each page in enjoyable, and in other cases its something you want to get done before you forget, or before your boss realizes you are shopping on your smartphone at work.

    anyway, our checkout can be found at

  29. 1480

    I am currently trying to redesign my basket – for my site

    I have always likes basket but the above article has given me a lot to think about – I think it may be back to the drawing board – but I would like to thank Tom for creating such a great article which has really got me thinking – and really putting my customer first and giving them the best experience

  30. 1531


    I have a pretty uncommon situation with a ‘branched’ multi page form. Let me try to show you the page flow in a simple text form:

    ###### _ yes — Step 2 — Step 3 — Step 4 — Step 5
    Step 1 +
    ###### |_ no —- Step 2 — Step 3

    (# are for ‘formatting’)

    So, depending on users choice at step 1 he will have to fill 5 or 3 Steps in total. Those following steps are, except for the “destination page” completely different.

    How would you experts visualize this without irritating the user?

    With kind regards,

  31. 1582

    So, when implementing a progress tracker – is it best practice to keep a step highlighted as “completed” even if users can navigate back to a prior step? Or would it be correct to unhighlight steps that have been completed when navigating backwards?

  32. 1633

    I find highlighting the steps taken as “completed” a good approach. I don’t think you should unhighlight steps when navigating backwards if they are still valid even with a modification in a previous step.

  33. 1684

    Thank you so much for giving ideas to create progress indicators…

  34. 1735

    especially one that contains a store, you may be required to Progress trackers show you not only where you are currently located, but also what steps you have previously taken,

  35. 1786

    The post is almost four years old but still actual
    Thanks you. It will help me with my website

  36. 1837

    Superb article – not only a good explanation of the subject but lots of design examples as well. Thank you.


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