(Lack of) Progress Bars

UI anomalies really perturb me. I encountered one today that I’ve seen in the past–one that I just have to put into print: progress bars that reach 100% and then reset back to 0%, perhaps doing this numerous times until the task has finished. I mean, what value does this provide, other than to indicate that the process is still running? If the scale goes from 0% to 100%, 100% indicates that the process is complete–so what value does resetting back to 0% have? If it is the intent of the developer to inform the user that the process hasn’t hung, why not just use an animated icon, instead? I find this frustrating.

Why do developers find it so difficult to implement a progress bar where one pass across to 100% indicates that the process is complete?

I attended an excellent SQL Server webcast today. It used Live Meeting. I loaded the Live Meeting client about 10 minutes before the webcast began. It said that a newer version of the client was available and it recommended that I upgrade. I downloaded the update and then installed it. The progress bar went from 0% to 100%, reset back to 0%, and then went from 0% to 100% again. It did this at least two more times. As it continued, I started to wonder if it would finish before the webcast began. Fortunately, it finished in time. But for all I knew, it could have been only 25% done when the webcast began!

Even when Windows boots, the progress bar ‘resets’ numerous times until it loads. Wouldn’t it be more intuitive and helpful if it only went from 0% to 100% once? I know, I know; some users’ PCs are so slow that the progress bar wouldn’t move very quickly. Then why not use some other type of animated icon in addition to the progress bar–an animated icon that didn’t stop?

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One Response to (Lack of) Progress Bars

  1. Jamie says:

    I\’d prefer to see an expansion of the callback in SQLDMO that updates an event handler for each 10 percent of the call to the database.  It may be this already exists but the purpose of a progress bar is to show the user how far into the process they have gone.  If there are many calls to procedures and some to the database, the user should be able to use a double progress bar to indicate the progress on calls that build the action.   The ones that seem the least animated are the ones to a database that may take a few minutes.  In this scenario the progress bar will seem to pause.  Using the event handler for SQLDMO, the programmer could get a tick on the 10 percent mark.  I\’d be more interested in seeing this approach to progress bars.

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