by anthony on 05/29/12 at 1:52 pm
Making users wait too long for your application to load can make users impatient. If users get the feeling, they’ll abandon your site and spend their time elsewhere.
While there are technical tweaks you can make to speed up your site, some apps have no choice but to make users wait. But there’s a way you can speed up your user’s sense of time to make them feel like your app loads faster than it does.
When an app is loading, users see a progress bar on their screen as a visual cue of when the app will finish loading. The way your progress bar moves and animates affects how they perceive the load time.
Backwards Moving Ribbings
A research study found that progress bars with backwards moving ribbings seem faster to users than forwards moving ribbings . These findings show that “induced motion effects, which state that motion perception is not absolute, but rather relative to the surrounding visual context” creates an illusion of increased velocity, which alters our perception of progress bar time .
Higher Number of Pulsations or Revolutions
Another way you can make your progress bar feel faster to users is to increase the number of pulsations it has. The same research study found that “the progress bar with increasing pulsation was more likely to be perceived as having a shorter duration” .
Increasing pulsations are much like the beats per measure of a song. The more beats per measure, the greater the tempo and the faster the song is played. When a progress bar pulsates, it acts like a metronome counting the “tempo” of the progress time.
This finding also has implications for indeterminate activity indicators. Indeterminate activity indicators are like progress bars except they’re radial rather than linear. And they don’t show when the loading process will complete.
You can make load times feel faster to users by increasing the number of revolutions an indicator has. The more times your indicator spins in a duration, the faster your app will feel.
Accelerating the Progress at the End
A separate study found that progress bars with accelerating progress was strongly favored over decelerating progress . This means that progress bars “with the fastest progress occurring near the end of the process” were perceived faster than progress bars “with pauses near the process conclusion” .
If your progress bar has to have pauses, you can downplay the progress in the beginning of the process. Then accelerate it towards the end to give users a rapid sense of completion time. Users are more tolerable with pauses at the beginning than at the end.
Progress Time is Relative
Tweaking the user’s perception of time can make your app seem faster than it really is. This comes in handy when you’ve done all you can to optimize your site.
Many feature-rich apps that have long load times can make use of this technique. But there are a couple other techniques you can use to give users a speedy perception. Perception is everything in user experience. If your load times feel fast, maybe it actually is.