I have a problem whereby we are asking a user for multiple items. This is in a gaming scenario and the game has lots of items. Each item is manufactured from other items and is only counted once it has been completed and picked up in the game.

We then have a deals section where a dealer asks you for some of your items. He will only ever ask for a maximum of 6 items in any one deal but he can ask for any number of any item.

At the moment we represent it like this


item you have / item dealer wants

So in the case above, we can complete the deal. We also reinforce this with a green tick over every item you have completed.


enter image description here

In this case we only have 4 and he wants 9 so we need to gather 5 more before we can complete the deal.

When you start having lots of items in a list the total number of icons and numbers becomes overwhelming. This is further compounded by the dealer asking for more than one deal at a time.

Can anyone think of an elegant way to better represent the what I have with what they want scenario?

  • Personally, it drives me crazy when people use have/want instead of want/have.
    – Brian
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 20:32

4 Answers 4


I'd put a small count bubble in the top left w/ the amount that they have. Preferrably over the avatar representing the item.

Then at the bottom, I'd put "Wants #".

Then color the count bubble green or red to indicate whether or not the deal is good.

Considering the input from Ben Brocka, maybe this would be ideal:

enter image description here

  • Another thing to consider is how important information is. I'm not sure of the context here. But is it important for the user to know how many they have, how many they want, or does it suffice to just show that the trade is good or bad?
    – William
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 14:53
  • Thats a good question and really depends on the user as different users have responded in different ways. Some people are very keen to know what they have so that they don't run out. You can't actually run out of anything you just need to restart a process. We have worked out that too few numbers confuse more than too many in this case.
    – kinnth
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 15:39

Your example seems perfectly fine to me, and that's generally how games represent this situation for recipes/etc: it's a convention.

If you want to drive the point home even further you might want a clearer message when you don't have enough; maybe a little bubble that reads "you need X more" or a (?) icon which reveals that information. The checkmark provides good affordance that you have "enough" and the division is obvious once you get the hang of it. The red/black coloration is also a good cue (standard finance colors) but shouldn't be relied on alone of course.

The problem with being even more specific, as in the other answers, is this system is pretty learnable and in all likelihood you're going to be seeing this multiple times per play session. Users will pick it up fast, and excessive expository text will only get in the way. Old RPGs tend to be a great example of text getting in the way; tapping the A button dozens of times as a character's dialog loads character by character as he explains to you, for the 50th time, that the Inn here costs 50 gil. Don't slow people down unless you absolutely have to.

Game design is different from other design in that learnability and efficiency are often more important than first-time comprehension of the underlying UI. Instead consider a brief tutorial/overlay explaining (briefly) things that might not immediately be obvious, but make plenty of sense once you start using it.


In the case of a game I think it'd probably be better to just write it out in full instead of just showing X/Y

"You have X items, this dealer wants Y - come back when you have more"

"This dealer only wants Y items at this time"

Then you're explaining what the limitation actually is and why.

If you've got a lot of these, then you can use a table:

Item   | You have | Dealer Wants
Item A |    4     |      8
Item B |    6     |      4
Item Z |    0     |      1

For each row, you could have a green background where the number you have is more than or equal to the number the dealer wants.

  • but that wouldn't account for lot's of x, so it would be x1,x2,x3,x4... it would become a very long sentence.
    – kinnth
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 13:29
  • 1
    This would potentially be a lot of reading in games in an extremely repetitive manner. There are many games where you'd be seeing this dozens of times in a play session
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 15:31
  • Updated answer.
    – PhonicUK
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 17:04
  • @BenBrocka: Item A could be an icon instead of text. Though one item per row means less room for items.
    – Brian
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 20:33

What if you were to strictly track on this screen the amount needed. So if it's

2 eggs, 1 cup flour, 3 cloves

and I have 2 eggs the screen would say

1 cup flour, 3 cloves needed

then when you have enough for everything then you can show how much of your inventory it will consume

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