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We're working on a web application where we store infrequently used items in an archive. The physical analog to this is a file cabinet.

Right now, we have this when it's empty:

enter image description here

And this when it contains 2 items:

enter image description here

However, the user feedback we received is that showing the number of items seems to describe that there is an action required on the user's part (much like unread items in an email inbox).

Is there a better way to represent this? Is it better to just show the first image regardless of what's in the archive?

(Also, not sure the best UX term to describe this - "affordance" isn't really the right word I'm looking for.)

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You could try an 'affordance', which is more like a bucket fill type indicator. Something that indicates approximately, by a visual mark, of how filled the archive cabinet could be. Check the Attachment 1 for a quick mockup. Now, somethings to note are:

1) Since as you rightly said, archive holds unimportant things. Hence its not super important to the user to know how many items are there specifically. An approximation should be good enough.

2) If you are putting a visual indicator like this, that somehow indicates that there is a limit on the number of files that could be stored in Archive. If there is no such limiting function, then you could avoid using any such thing.

3) In case 2 holds true, you could just use a number label inside the cabinet, that suggests items 'within' the cabinet, and does not confuse the user with any action needed. The idea again is to make it look less important (you could think about showing that info on hover?)

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  • Yes, we thought about adding the number on hover too (as you stated in 3). That's the direction we're heading. There's no limit to how many items can be in an archive. – vphilipnyc Jun 19 '16 at 19:27

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