Visibility of System Status

Often, it is unclear whether something is done, working, or broken. These can result in a gulf of evaluation, a previous concept which indicates that the user does not know what the state of the interface is.

A solution to that problem is the concept of Visibility of System Status: a design should make clear the progress being made towards the user’s goal. This concept was initially introduced in 1995 by Jakob Nielsen, who wrote “the system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.”1

It is a simple idea to understand and empathize with, but many times designers fail to keep it in mind. Below, we see the progression of a dishwasher which initially did not follow this concept by forcing the user to open the dishwasher to see any information about the progress of a cycle; realizing its mistake, the manufacturer added a light on the outside which changes color depending on the machine’s state.

Contributed by Manav Khandelwal, Krystian Jurkowski, and Siqi Liu.

About the author: Manav Khandelwal

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