I want to know more about status bars, what are they useful for and what is the appropriate way to use them.

I've noticed the following:

  • Status Bars are always located at the bottom with the most significant information in the rightmost side of the screen (why?)
  • Status Bars are often disabled by default (why?)
  • Is the concept of status bar lost while jumping from window-based applications to web, or is it just rendered differently?

I also want to know what kind of messages are appropriate for the status bar?

  • Information that changes often?
  • Modifiable Properties that change the behavior of the application (Modifiers?)?
  • Modeless Progress Bars (Finite or Infinite)

Is there anything I should avoid as a best practice for a status bar?

An example of a status bar is displayed in the image below:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

So pretty much what I want to know is the dos and don'ts of status bars and how they can help enhance user experience. The information above is to be taken as a reference only, so don't feel constrained to ask the questions in this description.

  • 1
    Can you elaborate on what you mean by status bar here ? Are you referring to a status bar indicator like prof-uis.com/img/tour_ff_img/ff_140_status_bar.jpg or are you talking about progress indicators – Mervin Dec 11 '12 at 23:52
  • I'm talking about Status Bars. I'm considering that a status bar can have one progress indicator, for example... – edgarator Dec 12 '12 at 0:03
  • Update your question with some examples so that people know what you are talking about – Mervin Dec 12 '12 at 0:16
  • 2
    I think this question is currently a bit vague. Do you have a specific question? – Kit Grose Dec 12 '12 at 4:48
  • 1
    Consider if this question were about tables. "What are the dos and donts of tables? When should I use them? When shouldn't I?" In that case, the question is too broad. They are a design pattern, and patterns are used in a variety of situations. It's better to read a design pattern library that goes into detail (or a book) than to ask a question here. If you have a specific question, like "Is providing a zoom control in a status bar a good idea" then consider asking that. – Rahul Dec 13 '12 at 12:28

A status bar, as per definition of the term, communicates status. This means, by default, reserve it for things that identify the state of the application rather than user actions. Though I can't offer a authoritive source, some things that come to mind:


  • application status (location, operational status, identifiers, cursor position, selected tool, ...)
  • background activity and progress (saving, compressing, loading)
  • clickable entries that open context menus for the above listed
  • clickable options that are both descriptive of the application status as well as user modifiable (zoom, settings, notifications)
  • consequences of user action, tooltip-like information (mouse hovering over a link in a web browser, for example)
  • populating the status bar does not change its distinction to content (in look)
  • optionally the status bar is only displayed when there is items to communicate or when change occurs


  • user actions / buttons / application tools
  • menus
  • inputs
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