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I'm working on helping users through a non-obvious initial setup process for a product I work on, and so I'm displaying a setup progress indicator on the main screen.

There are four separate setup steps which can largely be done in any order, but at least in my mind, there's a preferred order for the sake of clarity (increased functionality available after each step instead of none until the last step).

So, I'm planning to show some sort of indicator of how far along the user is in the setup process, and which steps they've completed, plus an indicator of what else they have to do.

My question is: is it better to show only completed steps (Option B on mockup) and the 'next step' suggestion so as not to overwhelm the user with options, or should I also show all required steps and highlight my suggestion (Option A), so that if they want to do them out of order, they still see their progress?

(Also, progress bar or not?)

Edit: It's not that the install process is doing tasks in the background. These are required, manual tasks that the one setting up the application has to do, one of which is connecting it to another server, so there aren't reasonable defaults.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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2 Answers 2

Long processes can be overwhelming for a user. I have done a lot of lab testing around this and have found that breaking setups up into chunks of information delivers small wins for the user. It gives them a sense of immediate progress.

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I'm not clear on whether you are suggesting one of the options over the other, or just concurring that having the setup process broken into tasks will give a sense of progress. Do you feel one of the options above is more helpful than the other? –  Shawn D. Jul 25 '13 at 18:28
    
" It gives them a sense of immediate progress." This was vague, sorry. Option B with the progress bar. –  Ryan Jul 25 '13 at 18:32
    
I can include a progress bar in either of the two options as well. Do you think showing the future tasks could be overwhelming? –  Shawn D. Jul 25 '13 at 18:37
    
A wizard which displays one step at a time and a one which can navigate to completed and next steps is your friend. –  Hasanga Jul 26 '13 at 6:38

I'd suggest rules which are based on some empirics. Note, if the user not involved in long process and his role is passive observer, it is very boring and tedious. Don't make user think do a lot, keep balance.

Also user could switch to other task while install runs as background process. And finally, some options could be pre-configured in some (moderate, average, most convenient) options and/or moved to the application settings.
enter image description here

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Sorry, I should have been more clear. It's not that the install process is doing tasks in the background. These are required tasks that the one setting up the application has to do, one of which is connecting it to another server, so there aren't reasonable defaults. –  Shawn D. Jul 26 '13 at 3:23

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