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I am designing a quick reference status indicator for a customer facing application. We would like to allow our users to check their status with our help desk, though that process only has three possible steps and does not frequently move.

The steps to the process are as follows:

  1. Ticket submitted successfully
  2. Ticket under review
  3. Ticket decision reached

We have tried all of the traditional approaches, including subway maps and progress bars. This is a unique problem, however, since most tickets will spend the majority of their lifespan in step 2. Steps 1 and 2 are also likely to be obvious in real life. For example, I know I submitted a ticket, and I probably received an email if the ticket has reached decision.

Looking for some creative approaches to indicating progress in this process. We want our users to know that there is something happening, even though it can (obviously) seem slow and static from the outside.

Maybe the best approach is to abandon the progress map altogether, and only show the current step. Open to any suggestions!

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You should try to expose more internal information to customers, for example :

  • Create more statuses i.e. Ticket in waiting queue etc. Check your business process to identify milestones that can be displayed as statuses.
  • Display number of tickets in waiting queue above their ticket
  • Elapsed time the ticked is under review
  • Estimated time for decision
  • brief comments from the employee reviewing ticket
  • etc

You may try to depict the above graphically using a progress bar.

  • Thanks for your advice. Unfortunately our statuses are limited by the back end system this front end experience is connected to. – Nick Dec 22 '15 at 20:09
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It’s a straight forward three phase work flow. At any time, the status must fall in one of those categories. So how do you make the users ‘feel better’ about ‘watching’ the status indicator ?

May be, if there is a cut off time for each phase, for ex: if a submitted ticket has to be picked up by support within 2 hours, then show a timer as a countdown to that. Users will know that they can expect it to move to next phase .. if it gets delayed, change colors indicating that it is still in phase1, and it is taking more time than expected.

Same thing with phase 2 and phase 3. At all times, user will see the current status and a countdown to next phase. If there is no standard cut off time period then, may be you can take average times (from historical data for such tickets) and use that for displaying progress?

I am only suggesting ideas and I am assuming you can do that flashy charts, graphs stuff using above ideas, as needed

  • You are exactly right, status must fall into one of these categories at any time, and the biggest struggle is making the user 'feel better' at any time. The problem is, we are specifically not allowed to show any type of "countdown", estimate or average, because it may give the user false hope. – Nick Dec 22 '15 at 20:08
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This really then boils down to psychology - https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201411/the-psychology-waiting - and point 2 says guesstimations need not be accurate. If you use them, veer on the pessimistic side to avoid some of the 'false hope' you describe.

Trouble is you want to give the users the impression something is happening, even though in reply to the other answers you say the back-end system cannot provide enough information (queue length, average wait time) to say whether that is actually the case? So how would you and thus the user know the difference between their ticket getting cheerfully processed and the issue-sorting team all being off with flu? If you can't tell the difference there's not a lot you can do apart from say the issue's been logged as you do already.

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Few suggestions:

1) Add an element/feature if its necessary, and if its having a good value add for the user. In your case, a progress bar is not serving much value, so possibly avoid it. Mentioning the status, I would say, is good enough.

2) To help the mental model of the user, see if you could provide any break-up or detail for Step2). For example, "You can expect decision by approx this date" OR "Review process started, expect resolution soon". You are a better judge, but idea is to supply user with helpful information around Stage 2.

3) If possible, you could do a Related or an FAQ mini section (like stackexchange)

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