We are creating an UI element to show task completion and are leaning more towards showing a number of tasks completed as compared to the words. e.g.

  • "0/3" v/s "To Do"
  • "1/3" v/s "In Progress"
  • "✔" v/s "Completed"

Our justifications for these design choices are:

  • Translation overhead for the words is extra effort for the designers.
  • The words take up more space.
  • The gamification aspect of the number/number would increase user engagement
  • The words do not give an actual estimate of how much work is left to do

I would like the validation and/or rebuttal to these justifications.


  • 1
    Only use numbers if the individual steps are of very similar length.
    – Crissov
    Jun 19 '17 at 10:48

context, context, context

Like everything UX, you need context. In a vacuum, the words are better, because they explain there's a task, and a status of this task. Numbers indicate that something is going on. At best.

Now, if you have proper labeling, all your points are valid. With just a tiny little change in your context, you can (and should) use the complete opposite approach.

However, your variables are almost labels. So, if the task is implicit within a broader task or flow, you could simply get rid of the labels and use variables as labels (hence, words). Since label+numberVariables will be longer than just label, you can make a case for that, exception made of your last item.

In short: barring labeling, space considerations and TESTING, I'd say your approach is sound and quite probably correct

  • In general I agree with this answer, except for this: "Numbers indicate that something is going on. At best." Numbers indicate roughly how much progress has been made: I know which step I'm on, and I know how many steps there are going to be. "In Progress" only communicates "I'm not done yet." For that one example, even out of context, the numbers are a clear improvement over the indeterminate "in progress". (Perhaps it should be "step 1/3" instead of just "1/3", but that does come down to context.) Jun 12 '17 at 19:01
  • @DanielBeck, you're correct, but I'm talking about a scenario where you have no labels, only numbers. This would mean anything at all, while an implicit task with words might be a lot more informative
    – Devin
    Jun 12 '17 at 19:35
  • Even without the label I'd say "1/3" communicates more than "in progress" -- but of course I'm assuming that those numbers would be in a context that implies they're indicators for a stepped process. Which brings us tidily back to your original point :) Jun 12 '17 at 19:40
  • 1
    @g0rd 99% certain? 99% finished? 99% of the userbase? 99% of the events? I think you mean certain, but without labeling I can not be 100%. (sure) Aug 12 '17 at 6:25

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