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Is it necessary to have microcopy text to accompany a loading/progress image? Is the word "updating", or "loading", or even "wait a sec" necessary to support an animated loading/progress image?

with or without text - what's the general consensus on this?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

In my opinion the text should be there:

  • It's an extension of courtesy to the user, explaining what's going on and not leaving them wondering (although they probably know what's happening).
  • If loading time is a bit longer not only do you avoid the question of "is it stuck", but you can also change the text to indicate what's happening (e.g. "fetching data", "updating server", "refreshing UI", etc.), making the waiting a bit better.
    A great example would be the Hipstamatic App for the iPhone:
    alt text
    Since it takes a bit of time processing the photo, they've added both the "developing" and "printing" indications (and there's a progress bar too, but that's a different thing).

Sometimes it's okay to drop the text:

  • If the loading time is always very quick
  • If there's anything else to look at, be it real information, promo or kind of a splash screen (which I don't think is encouraged, but if it's already there...).
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thanks - that's good guidance – thesaundi Oct 18 '10 at 9:20

The key point is showing progress and giving the user an idea as to when the loading will be done. If your loading/progress image already does that, e.g. via a progress bar, I see text as optional. But if it's a static or looping graphic that provides no clue on progress, then text would be helpful.

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It's not absolutely necessary, but as the other answers point out if your operation is particularly slow then it's worth adding extra information to the progress bar.

If nothing else if there is a problem your users will be able to say that the process hung during the "downloading packages" or "updating widgets" stage giving you a head start on where to troubleshoot in the absence of error logs.

The fact that the text changes can make the operation seem to be shorter as the user sees that something is happening.

When it wouldn't necessarily be useful is where the text changes too rapidly for the user to read - though I am reassured by the file names rapid flickering when copying large volumes of data.

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We used to have continuance problems in our checkout path, just 1 click away from a conversion  >  Watching the error logs we saw that leaving customers had as referral the page itself  >  We realized those potential customers were hitting refresh (f5) while the transaction was going, just before the last step  >  We added a label saying: "hold your clicks, it can take a minute" and the continuance curve went up  >  My salary didn't.

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