I have a Web based UI, and it has a one line panel in which a summary of ongoing background activity is shown. When background activity is occurring, a spinner shows in the panel with a summary of the activity, e.g. "Scanned 10 of 20 folders". When activity completes, the text disappears. To the right of the panel is a button to invoke fresh "scans".
The activity is long running, and is not always changed as a result of user action - it could be another user's action, something on a schedule, or something invoked automatically as the result of some event.
When there's no text there, it just looks like an empty space with the button floating off to the right. I wonder if some sort of placeholder should appear instead so the user knows that activity may appear there.
Am I the only one to think it looks like a waste of space?
I don't want to make the panel appear and disappear because I personally dislike Web pages that move contents up and down a page. Always seems to occur just when I'm about to click a link...
Are there any broad guidelines as to what to do about these content areas?