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In the web app I am working on right now we'll have some pages that will perhaps need more time to load. When should I use an ajax loader? After 1, 2 or 3 seconds?

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Are you referring to initial page load or grabbing data via AJAX via a user action? –  DA01 Sep 13 '11 at 12:56
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If your initial page load takes more than a couple hundred milliseconds try to set it up so that the page appears to be loading sequentially, rather than all at once. –  Ben Brocka Sep 13 '11 at 15:22
    
I was referring to the initial page load. –  tamimat Sep 14 '11 at 14:52
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

"1.0 second is about the limit for the user’s flow of thought to stay uninterrupted, even though the user will notice the delay. Normally, no special feedback is necessary during delays of more than 0.1 but less than 1.0 second, but the user does lose the feeling of operating directly on the data." (See reference 2 below)

I'd say, if a page needs more than 1 second, then at the 1 second mark make sure to give a feedback showing that it is necessary to wait. (But that wait better be less than 10 seconds -- see again 1 and 2 below).

References:

1) Miller, R.B., 1968, Response time in man-computer conversational transaction. Proceedings of AFIPS Fall Joint Computer Conference, 33, 267-277.

2) http://www.useit.com/papers/responsetime.html

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Really like the idea of showing the ajax loader only after a while. Using it right away often gives too much flicker. Thanks for the references, appreciated. –  Thibaut Barrère Sep 14 '11 at 9:58
    
I was thinking to show the a loader after one second. Just a small one that indicates the system is working. –  tamimat Sep 14 '11 at 15:30
    
One second might be too long: youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lcD9CF0bxyk (Though that video is specific to touch interfaces, I think the same principle applies.) –  msanford Dec 21 '12 at 18:21
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I use approximately 500 ms before I show a small loader. Nowadays people will be annoyed if the loading time is more than 1 second, but a loader eases the waiting for a little while (e.g., if the loader appears the users seems to be a little more patient to wait - the know that the system is trying to do something - it hasn't crashed).

A smaller amount will just show the loader when it's not needed in those cases where the loader appears just for some ms.

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