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".

Ongoing scan

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.

enter image description here

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?

1 Answer 1


I completely agree the content should not shift.

I would put a message showing the "staleness" of the data, e.g.

"Last scanned 10 minutes ago"


"Last scanned on 6/27 at 9:30"

This gives the user the context they need to decide whether or not they want to trigger a manual re-scan (or helps explain why something they are looking for isn't shown- it is too new).

  • That's a good idea, and better than a dumb "Activity will appear here". Would you advise different styling, e.g. greyed out text, italics? Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 14:21
  • 1
    How about a (green/gray) checkmark to indicate that the last scan was successful? If something fails, do you have means to notify the user? You might add a red text to indicate that the last scan failed.
    – Leon Adler
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 14:56
  • I agree with Leon and yes- making it visually less prominent is a good idea since it's not something the user has to read or make a decision on, since it's just contextual information.
    – J. Dimeo
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 20:19

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