by anthony on 05/29/12 at 1:52 pm
In today’s age of instant gratification, making users wait too long for your application to load is a user experience issue. If users get the feeling that your application loads too slow, they’ll grow impatient, and spend their time elsewhere. While there are technical things you can do to speed up load times, some feature-rich applications have no choice but to make users wait a while in order for the application to work properly. When you’ve optimized your application all you can and it still feels slow, there’s a way you can speed up your user’s sense of time to make them feel like your application loads faster than it really does.
When an application is loading, users will typically see a progress bar on their screen that gives them a visual indication of when the application will finish loading. The way your progress bar moves and animates affects how users perceive the load time of your application
Use 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 .
Increase the Number of Pulsations
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 a process will complete. They’re used more for telling users that progress is taking place, but without indicating the extent of it. If your application uses activity indicators, you can make load times feel faster to users by increasing the number of revolutions it has. The more times your activity indicator spins in a duration, the faster your application will feel to users.
Accelerate the Progress and Avoid Pauses 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 will have pauses, you can downplay the progress in the beginning of the process and accelerate it towards the end to give users a rapid sense of completion time. Users are much more tolerable with pauses at the beginning of the progress than at the end.
Progress Bar Time is Relative
Intelligent and informed design can make your progress bar seem faster than it really is. This comes in handy when you’ve exhausted all the options for application optimization you possibly can do. Many feature-rich applications that have long load times can benefit from using these techniques. When it comes to user experience, perception is everything. If your application looks and feels faster to users, maybe it actually is.