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I have data that classifies users into two status categories:

  • Needs attention
  • No action required

These users have taken tests and that data leads to this status. But the status is derived from the expected score for this candidate, not the test outcome itself. Deviating from the expected outcome does not mean you failed or passed. If the outcome was expected, status is no action required. If the outcome was not in the expected range (either too high or too low), status is needs attention.

This is of course prone to confusion. If I put a green checkmark when status is no action required this can give the impression that the user scored high on the test. And to show needs attention as a red circle with a cross in it looks like the user scored low. When in fact a high score could still require attention if it was higher than expected, and a low score could be ok if it was expected.

The status per user can be pulled up and printed. Someone working offline could flip through sheets of statuses and should be able to quickly pick out the ones that need attention.

Brings me to the question: How would you express the statuses no action required and needs attention while avoiding the judgemental impression of a fail or pass.

For needs attention I'm thinking along the lines of a 'danger triangle' but that might still be too close to 'there is a problem' which is not the case per say...just needs to be looked at.

  • Request for icon designs are considered off topic here - Can I suggest you reword your question to focus it more on finding a non judgmental format for showing the status rather than asking about icons? – Andrew Martin Jan 10 '17 at 10:23
  • I didn't realise, but I understand. Thanks for the suggestion. Changed the question. Let me know if it still needs attention (no pun intended). – Koert van Kleef Jan 10 '17 at 11:08
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Be careful with the wording because a failed expected candidate with a "All is ok" message sounds confusing to me. You could use labels "Needs attention" "Doesn't need attention".

I would suggest to only mark the ones that need attention, so if a user doesn't have anything it implies everything is as expected.

About the icon, the traffic triangle for generic caution (with the exclamation mark, for example) could be a good option.

As per your edit, if you want to avoid a negative impression, then I suggest to think about it as if it was a real world case. When you have a pile of sheets the way to bring attention to one of the papers is to use a sticky note. So maybe a sticky note icon (or something in those terms) could be useful in your case.

  • Good point about the 'all is ok'. Will change that in the question. Will also add more context to the question. I see it now reads as a scenario whereby someone reviews all the users in a list. The idea to show nothing that attracts attention for the ones that don't require attention is a good suggestion. I'll give it some thought, this might be the answer. – Koert van Kleef Jan 10 '17 at 10:58
  • @KoertvanKleef I suggested a different icon, hope it fits better the scenario. – Alvaro Jan 10 '17 at 15:03
  • Thank you. That actually IS a scenario: the status per user can be printed (one user per sheet). So the sticky note icon would actually end up on physical paper. But the concept of "has notes"/"has comments" is a useful metaphor for conveying that it needs work or attention. – Koert van Kleef Jan 10 '17 at 15:12
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Usually something that blinks tends to attract the user's attention so that's a nice way to convey a "Here is something that has happened and need attention" message. In addition to that you can always go for a good old fashioned string which actually gives the information what the status is.

As for the symbols and colours you use I advise you to be very careful with these things. What if the user is colour blind? What if the user comes from a culture where the symbol you have picked as "the right one for the job" actually has a different or even the opposite meaning of what you intended it to have? Try to analyze your target groups (including locations of distribution) and select symbols that have the same meaning across cultures. For colour-blind users shapes are essential so try combining colour with shape for your statuses.


Frankly I don't see the point of the No action required as a status at all. Why even bother informing the user about something that doesn't change the current state? It's like clicking with a mouse somewhere on the screen and telling the user "Hey, you have clicked on the screen" without doing anything else. This message/status gives zero information (beside stating an obvious fact even to a user who has never used your product). Or perhaps I understood your post in the wrong way and/or the explanation isn't clear enough?

  • Both your answer and the other current answer suggest that 'no action required' does not need to be an actual status. I get that, and it is a good point. Thank you! As for how it is presented, consider the scenario where someone flips through a pile of sheets with a status per sheet. Text would still work, but the user would be faster at picking out the ones that need attention if he/she doesn't need to read, even just one word. An empty circle versus a dot might even be enough. Of course add text to be sure. – Koert van Kleef Jan 10 '17 at 13:18
  • Ah, okay. Still what symbol you pick depends on who your users will be. Are you planning internationalization as port of the product? If your product will be used in a specific country this will mean less work on determining what symbol will work or not. True that a simple (filled) circle (filled is better since it's easier to spot) usually does the trick and is somewhat international (I've seen apps in various languages for different countries using it as a way of showing status). – rbaleksandar Jan 10 '17 at 13:56
  • The product is not international. But I generally prefer to keep things as culture neutral as possible. I'm leaning towards an empty square for 'no action required' and a square with something in it; a dot, an exclamation mark, or triangle. I'll still add the labels too. Thank you for your suggestions. – Koert van Kleef Jan 10 '17 at 15:34

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