We live in a time of quick response, instant gratification and ever expanding options. Our expectations of the tools we use are that they will help us maximize our time, efficiency, productivity. When it feels like a website or application is wasting this precious time we become increasingly likely to take our business elsewhere…and if it’s happening while we’re trying to do something on our phone or mobile device it’s even worse.

More than 30% of mobile users surveyed said they would bail on a page that took more than 6-10 seconds to load. 3% said they would abandon a page that took more than 1 second. That means a 1 second page delay could result in a 7% reduction in conversions.


Here’s a guess: most of your websites and applications take longer than 1 second to load so why don’t I just say “this is hopeless” and end this post? Because there is a way to combat this abandonment rate and it may be a little bit surprising.

We can reap the benefits of speeding this up without actually speeding anything up. You’re welcome developers.


Let’s assume that your product has been optimized in every practical, technological way and it’s still feels a little slow. How can you reduce load time further? Surprisingly the answer is “with magic” in the form of distraction and cognitive trickery, as magicians do when they perform a magic trick.

Although getting load time close to 3 seconds is a standard now enforced by Google, few users know how long loading, or any other processes, really take. The perception of time is what their judgement and consequent actions are based on, not the actual duration…and that’s great news!

We can use carefully crafted visual cues to reap the benefits of speeding things up, without actually speeding anything up. You’re welcome developers.

This isn’t just easier, it’s often the most cost effective, technologically viable option. Simple techniques like adding immediate visual feedback to buttons, removing “loading” spinners for processes that are usually shorter than 10 seconds, and adding thoroughly planned progress bars for longer processes, all help speed the user’s perception.
Studies on how loading bars affect the perception of time have shown that progress bars feel fastest when they are shown with:

  • Pulsations moving from left to right.
  • Accelerating progress: The rate of progress is shown to be increasing over time. Increasing the number of pulsations over time is one way to achieve this.
  • No pauses near the end: Users are much more tolerant of pauses near the beginning than at the end.

It’s important to note also that progress bars can function as a placebo and don’t have to be a realistic indicator of the status of a process.

So there you have it. A better, faster, cheaper way to improve user experience through the subtle manipulation of time. Even a slight perceptive speed increase is very noticeable – the Weber-Fechner law implies that the most noticeable impacts are in the first 20% of a change. So take another walk through your processes and see if there is anywhere that a well placed visual cue might make the experience FEEL faster.

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