Need For Speed UX: Altering Time Perception through Visual Design Pt. 2

In the previous entry, the idea of optical illusion being used to literally alter a user’s perception of time was explored. With our newfound command over (perceived) time, we must now remember Uncle Ben’s sage advice:

 

With great power comes great responsibility is right, Uncle Ben.

Altering the user’s perception of time can be incredibly useful when dealing with lengthier loading, uploading, and downloading times, but is there such a thing as too fast?
Recent insight says yes.

If something takes too long, a user may begin to question if an error has occurred. Because of this, it’s easy to assume faster is better, but that isn’t necessarily true, either. Studies have also shown that if something is too fast, doubt will plague the user once more. “That couldn’t have possibly happened already”, they might tell themselves.

An important principle to understand in these situations is that we humans have no other thing to relate to beyond our own real-world experience. If they view a task as difficult, speediness won’t always result in a positive response such as awe and amazement at what modern technology is capable of. Instead, speediness may indicate to the user that, once more, something must have gone wrong. This puts a damper on both the user’s experience as well as the developing relationship between user and company.

Above all else is trust; if a company wants their users to come back and use their services again and again, they have to establish trust somewhere between the computer screen and the user’s ever-watchful eyes (and quickly too).

Healthcare websites might suffer the burden of this quandary more than other sectors of the world wide web; with sensitive information present, many precautions have to be taken to ensure data travels safely and meets all federal requirements. Not only does this create a more scrutinizing eye from the user, the time to navigate between pages may create larger wait times due to additional limitations put on the site.

So what is a healthy amount of time for trust to be properly established? And how is that accomplished? The answer is not as precise as numbers, but there is a right answer.


A perfect empathetic example of managing levity and user expectation was provided by Tal Mishaly in their article, Let Your Users Wait:

Imagine going to your friend’s place to give them $1. Doesn’t really feel like a big deal.

Now, imagine going to your friend’s place to give them $10,000. Aside from being more cringe-worthy, you’re also physically transporting a lot more money. It feels riskier (What if it gets stolen? What if it all flies out the window?). The stakes are higher, it feels more important. It’s basically the same act but it sure doesn’t feel that way.

The morale of the story: Even if the act is the same, the $10,000 seems to be much more of an overall ordeal when compared to the same situation with only $1.


When performing a similar action online – transferring either $1 or $10,000 between two different bank accounts – the amount of effort a computer system must exert is exactly the same, regardless of the amount. The rub? If transferring either amount takes the same amount of time, a casual or inexperienced user may think that something went wrong. If they can transfer $10,000 as quickly as $1 it happened too fast but if transferring the single dollar took as long as the user thinks the $10,000 should, they may assume the worst because it happened too slow.

As harmless as these situations may seem, these perceptions can have a huge affect on the confidence a user will have that the action was completed successfully.

When dealing with the plethora of sensitive information often found in the healthcare industry, the need to establish trust is greater and sometimes harder to accomplish. Keeping these principles in mind will certainly make the task a little easier. Don’t be afraid to make your users wait, and don’t be afraid to take measures to make your user more comfortable with the process by altering their perception of time.

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