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Let's say you have a diagram where steps 1, 2, and 6 are important and shown to the user.

A flow diagram with steps 1, 2 and 6 in boxes

Steps 3-5 are not important, and don't need to be shown. But, the user should know that they exist. It's like a visual equivalent of an ellipsis, showing that something is being hidden, but exists in other contexts.

What's this called, and how is it displayed? (Feels like this is a very common visual representation, but without knowing what it's called, I can't find examples...)

2 Answers 2

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In mechanical drawing this is called a short break line, indicating there's a section not shown that's not pertinent to the diagram:

short break line

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    you always learn something new! :)
    – Devin
    Jan 24, 2023 at 23:53
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I don't think there's a common name for it, at least not that I know of (aside from bloodyKnuckle's answer).

However, I wonder what the reason is for doing this. I mean, if this is for end-user visualization, then there's no need for them to know that there are steps they can or can't complete. The steps are sequential, so you need to show all the available steps. Users can skip them if they're optional (see image below).

enter image description here

Also, while steppers can be non-linear, they need to be sequential:

From Material.io steppers page

Steppers display progress through a sequence of logical and numbered steps.

If it's a data visualization for stakeholders, the steps must be there or it would be a mystery to coders. In this case, there is a commonly accepted term for Information Architecture and Data Visualization: Conditional Lines (or arrows). In this case, show steps 1 through 6, all of them, but dismissable steps can be shown with dotted lines, depending on the condition (in your case: filled in or skipped).

Of course, I don't have all the information about your needs, but in general I think it's quite confusing to show a reference to something that exists but can't be seen by users. That's why I think there is no name for it.

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  • Thanks for the detailed answer. In short - this would be for internal users who are familiar with the screens, but don't need to see them all. We just need to show changes on 1, 2 and 6 but make sure they're not reading "screen 6 is now after 2".
    – Izquierdo
    Jan 25, 2023 at 15:37

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