I'm having a hard time figuring out how to make it clear to the user what the current screen is displaying.

In the application I'm developing most of the screen is occupied by a 3d scene that contains a lot of different meshes visualized together, with some control panels and tables around it for manipulation of the scene.

The primary purpose of this screen was to visualize live data for a 3d print job.

Now I would like to reuse this screen to visualize 2 more things:

  1. Jobs executed in the past. In this case a lot of the data is the same but there a few more extra things. Further confusion is that during a live job, there is past data displayed to for layers that have already been printed. So in practice this past job view is the same as live view where it has just been completed.
  2. Job preview. In this case it is again data being displayed is something that is part of a live view, right before someone hits the start button.

Last thing to note is that in the live view there are a few extra things like the control buttons and machine state, etc. that do not appear in the other views.

Implementing this was very easy since it can be easily reused. But I am getting comments that it's confusing at first glance what the user is looking at.

I've tried adding things like bigger titles somewhere but it looks ugly.

1 Answer 1


(1) For any tool that deals with time elapsing, some form of timeline to indicate progress is useful. In your case, a horizontal timeline with a clear split between past (job history) and present (mid-print or complete job) would go a long way towards indicating the current view state. Think YouTube livestreams which let you watch live or drag the playhead back to see the rest of the stream:

A YouTube livestream scrollbar in the past

(2) To differentiate a preview from an active or past job, firstly the presence of the START button should help indicate that this job has not run yet. Consider your user flow - if the process of getting to the preview screen is significantly different, and the screen itself looks different enough from the active/part jobs screens, users will be able to identify the differences.

You mentioned you got some comments on your designs, and that's brilliant - user feedback is super valuable. Try some different designs, do some A/B testing, and find out how different you need to make these screens so users can tell the difference. Tester feedback is key!

One last word - see if you can find other products that do a similar thing or are popular in your field, and see what they do well. Taking inspiration from other UI designs is really helpful for external consistency (Nielsen's usability heuristic #4) and means your users don't have to learn something new to use your interface easily.

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