Add a block of graphics describing the steps involved in submitting data to the system. The block should always appear on the same spot of the page. As the process progresses, the current step is highlighted, giving a clear indication to the user, how far the process has come and how far is left.
If there is a need for showing what steps are to come in a specific process, as is there a need for simplifying the page layout for those pages involving the steps. Remove unnecessary distractions like extra navigation, advertisements, and the likes.
The Steps Left pattern is used when it is critical to maintain the user’s focus throughout the process of filling in data to the system. This is for instance critical in web-shops, where the checkout process is often guided by this pattern. In web-shops, the checkout process is the most critical part of the site, as this is the part that captures the customer’s money. The Steps Left pattern provide the user with a great overview of how far in the process the user has gone: it provides a visible end to the process, which the user can aim for.
This pattern is similar of Wizards known from especially desktop applications, which lets the user make his choices step by step.
The few (3) simple steps of the bloglines.com service is elegantly described in a 3 step graphic.
The Steps Left pattern used at digg.com when signing up for a new account
A very clean and simple "Steps Left" progress bar is used at furioustees.com.
At ignition-skateshop, the current step of the checkout process is highlighted.