We have a web app where the users need to complete a number of steps to get the most from the app - we are struggling with a user friendly and intuitive way of displaying the steps which get across the importance of doing so but still being obvious but not obtrusive. We see this as critical as this is the first thing the user sees when they signup and first impressions really do count!
At the moment we have something like this:
The blue part is only shown until the user has completed all the steps and the individual steps are removed as each is completed - the red part is used as part of this as well as throughout the life of the application to let them know they didn't log out properly or to give other application wide notices.
The problem with the red part is that sometimes we need to display more than one message and putting them on top of each other takes up too much screen space plus they are different colours depending on the seriousness of the message hence it could look too much like a rainbow. We have tried notification buttons before with an icon with a red indicator to show the number of messages but a lot of people either didn't see them or just chose to ignore them as the little red number was pretty small and unobtrusive. At least the current ones are hard to miss!
The blue part we think is intuitive but it doesn't feel very slick nor user friendly and the number of steps might be offputting for those who want to start using the application despite each only taking 30 seconds really.
Is there a better way of displaying "error" messages as well as progress indication within the same UI?