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I am developing a 5 step process for a health insurance provider for an international audience.

currently this is a display with three states: 1) completed 2) current step 3) future state (greyed out and inactive)

To navigate, you can go back or click the continue button to move through the process (post-validation) but was wondering why so few sites have the progress tracker as a display rather than a control?

Am also wondering whether I should stick with numbered steps only (for international comprehension) or have numbers AND words? any views would be vey much welcomed.

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I've removed progress-bar because it confused me - a progress bar (as when copying a file) displays the state of an action the user has to wait upon. – giraff Aug 19 '11 at 14:17

In a wizard where it's possible to get back to an earlier stage, I don't see any reason why the progress indicator shouldn't be clickable. It's not a question of "a display rather than a control", it's "a control as well as a display". It's always a display. If you make it clickable, you provide an alternative navigation method, which is more efficient than just clicking the "Back" button, because here you can get to any stage directly, with one click. I don't see any real downsides to this.

Regarding the numbers vs. numbers+words issue - typically texts contributes a great deal to clarity. In wizards steps, I only give up on text when there's a good reason to do so.

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A progress indicator is definitely a good alternative to navigation. I would say use numbers and text - but make sure the text is concise and clear.

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