I'm expanding on a question I posed in comments on How do you indicate progress to users in a multi-step form?.

Roland made the comment "because everybody wants to reach 100% percent" when discussing his reason for a progress bar in his wizard-style form. My question is this - has anyone done any research to see if this sort of thing actually helps? Or is it even possible that it could hurt conversion rates (Get through page one and see that you're only 5% complete - do you really want to go through another 19 pages?)?

2 Answers 2


I have found a study on this topic, quite long actually: Matzat Snijders vdHorst accepted version

And also have a Luke Wrobleski 'seminar' on this topic http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX09/C17F - and he has wrote about web form design as well

And one more on scribd Rethinking-The-Progress-Bar - "This paper explores the impact of various progress bar behaviors on user perception of process duration. The results are used to suggest several design considerations that can make progress bars appear faster and ultimately improve users’ computing experience."

From these resources, it seems to me that progress indicators improve conversion rates.

The question is in my opinion is that the how the different progress indicator design differ?

  • 1
    From what i saw the last article is for progress bars for a long action not a progress form Feb 11, 2011 at 7:43
  • One note - the first paper cited (Matzat, et al) finds that progress bars generally negatively affected completion rates on surveys or had no impact. With some caveats they say that it may be preferable to leave the indicator out completely. Worth a read.
    – Voodoo
    Mar 20, 2013 at 21:23

I don't have any hard evidence or numbers on how progress bars affect abandonment rates. But I can give my experience on the subject.

I worked on a website that had a 15-20 minute long insurance application. That site was my responsibility for about 6 years, and I saw it go through a lot of changes.

We had a progress bar ever since the beginning though. In the early days you would see the progress bar from the very first step. It would say something like "6% complete." Eventually we changed this, and I'll tell you why.

As we optimized the site we found that users are more likely to abandon in the very early stages of the application.

Starting from the beginning, the abandonment rates for each step went something like this:

  1. 40% abandon
  2. 20%
  3. 5%
  4. and so on...

What we were probably seeing is that the more serious users tend to follow through with the application. And most of the users who abandoned early on did so because they weren't really serious anyway. On top of that, we had the traditional friction points early in the application such as registration, where we ask the user for their email address and contact information.

So because of these figures, and the fact that the registration page had a very high abandonment rate, we actually changed things so that the progress bar is invisible for the first few steps. And then it appears on the step after the registration page. At that point it'll say something like "25% complete." The theory was, just as you said, that the progress bar might actually be scaring users away early on in the application.

We changed a lot of other things at the same time, so I can't say for certain what an impact this might have had, if any. But maybe it'll help you anyway.

  • Yeah, when thinking this over, showing the progress bar after it's at some good percentage seemed like a good way around the 5% issue.
    – Rangoric
    Jul 15, 2011 at 16:38
  • I love the idea of not showing the progress bar until there's something significant to report. Nice touch. Sep 1, 2011 at 17:59

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