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.
The Difference Between Progress Trackers and Breadcrumbs
As we have detailed previously in Breadcrumbs In Web Design: Examples And Best Practices, 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.
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 rates. 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.