I'm part of the development team of a GIS (geographic information system) cloud platform (https://sepal.io). We provide our users access to storage and supercomputers for free. To avoid them overloading the service we provide, we set up a quota system that prevents a regular user from using all our resources (because of course in the end WE pay for the AWS machines). If an advanced user require more computation we gladly increase their quota.

At the moment the quotas are displayed to the user as follows:

current display, a table with columns for the quota and amount utilized, with dollar signs used as units

Some of our users complained that we use the $ symbol and unit to measure quotas, as it make them think that they will need to pay.

How could we display this information without making people think that we are asking for money?

We cannot move directly to "%" because "budget d'instance" is not consumed at the same speed with respect to the size of the computer you're using; each machine will use your budget at a different speed:

table showing resources consumed

  • 1
    Frame challenge: you say you want to display utilization, then say you want to display rate of exhaustion and give variable rate of exhaustion as a reason to reject the percentages already in the first image. Which is it that you want to display? If both, you don't say that you want to display both. Apr 17, 2021 at 23:58
  • Any reason you couldn't use abstract currency symbol ¤? Apr 19, 2021 at 7:24
  • Or maybe switch to credits, instead of $.
    – jnovacho
    Apr 19, 2021 at 11:54
  • Frame challenge: Apparently you are donating the amounts of money which are displayed to your users. I would be prominently displaying that on purpose, in the hopes of raising donations from users who can afford it.
    – Nobody
    Apr 19, 2021 at 14:07
  • We are a founded NGO we don't ask for money to our users. Apr 20, 2021 at 6:09

3 Answers 3


Personally I think you could use percentages just fine, you can still apply that to instance rates. For example, 0.02% per hour.

However, if you don't like the idea of percentages I would suggest you display everything as "units" instead. You don't even need to convert the numbers, just remove the currency symbol and add "units" at the end. Something like this:

enter image description here

If you don't like the idea of using fractions of a unit, then just eliminate the decimals by multiplying all the values by 100. Like this:

enter image description here

  • 1
    Snowflake does this with Virtual Credits. You buy credits, and every resource has a fixed cost. Slightly shady, as this allows them to have variable pricing by controlling the price of the credits, but that should not be an issue since this is free. Coincidently, this is the same tactic that mobile games use to increase spending. Apr 18, 2021 at 9:10

Just delete the dollar sign. The units aren't important here, just the amounts.

Quota: 100
Usage: 60


My answer is so basic that I'm worried that I'm missing something obvious, but here goes:

How do you know when a user has exceeded or is approaching their quota? What is actually being measured to tell you that? Bytes (as in storage)? Minutes (as in cell phone usage)? Bytes per hour?

Just use the units of whatever is actually being measured. (If the users aren't paying, I'm not sure I understand why is it being converted into dollars to begin with.)

If you offer multiple services that use different units and the units are converted to dollars as a way of normalizing them into a single value, then one solution might be to change the column headings from "Quota" to "Monthly Credit" (or "Weekly credit" or "annual credit" or whatever time the quota is based on) and the 2nd column to "Credit remaining" (or possibly "Credit used" if you can't change the logic that calculates the value of the 2nd column). The idea here is that use of the word "credit" (or possibly "allowance") addresses the concerns from the users that feel the current display gives the impression that they are being charged.

If you don't think that changing the column headings alone will solve the problem, then another approach would be to just ditch the dollar sign and use units of "credits." That addresses the concern two ways: it gets rid of the dollar sign that some users don't understand, the unit "credits" emphasizes the free nature of the service.

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