Progress Indicator Matters
People hate waiting without being aware of how far they are away from the destination. In the bank, we watch the big screen to see how many people are ahead in the line; in a competition, we use sandglass to remind us the time lapse; while on the web, we need a progress indicator.
“Waiting” actually happens all the time through our interaction with the computer. Download software, send an email, process a transaction, or open an online video…we all have to wait. What can reduce our negative feeling of waiting, however, is a well-designed progress bar or loading indicator, showing clearly when our waiting will end. In that case, we won’t be disturbed by the uncertainty of when it is going to finish and whether it is successful.
In this post, I’m going to list some of the indicators that I hate and some I love, just to showcase that a friendly progress indicator could make a difference.
Check out the below two indicators. How frustrated could it be when you’re staring at this spinner gear or spiral bar yet seeing them stay unchanged. You’ll probably think: oh, my network’s broken and I’m stuck there forever. Then you can’t help but refresh the site. Bang! The process is interrupted and you have to start all over again and even wait longer.
Most users, as I believe, will welcome these kind of indicators. Not only a progress bar visually shows the dynamic change, but also a number offers a precise proportion that has be done or left. It gives a full sense of control to the users who thus won’t suffer from any anxiety.
Even the system cannot tell the exact waiting time, it’d better show the users what proportion of the total time has already passed, or at least inform the users to wait for another few minutes. Gmail, in this case, presents a good example. The highlighted tag “sending” at the top of inbox list indicates that the email is on the way, without any proportion hint, but if the waiting is beyond normal level, the indicator will change to “Still working” that tells the users not to worry and just hang in there a little bit.
The progress indicator may be a minor detail in the big picture of a website design, but its impact on user experience can be significant. Basically, I think there are two key issues for a well functioning progress indicator. It should be close to the previous clicking area or in a fixed area (Gmail) so that the users will easily find it. It should also inform the users how much of the task is done rather than merely showing a running state.
Even so, we may not yet call it perfect. Waiting is boring, but a creative loading design can sometimes add pleasure to this process or even draw an illusion in the users that “I haven’t spent as much time as it actually is.”
I find some really fun and innovative loading flash, enjoy them and you’ll find that sometimes waiting, is not that annoying.