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While checking how a site works on Internet Explorer, I noticed that the page loading indicator spins a lot faster than in other browsers. Also, the iPhone uses a noticeably slower activity indicator when 3G connection is unavailable and a slower connection is used.

So I started wondering if there is a correlation between the speed of the spinner and the perceived speed of the software or website? Could I cheat and make an AJAX site seem faster just by speeding up the loading.gif?

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In that case wouldn't it have been a better approach by Apple to have a quicker indicator on slower connection to have it perceived as faster..? –  AndroidHustle Jun 14 '12 at 14:13
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No because Apple is actually giving a better user experience by setting user expectation rather than trying to trick the user into a false perception of speed. Any gain in perceived speed will diminish the longer a user uses that application. If the spinner is always a frantic speed be it 5sec or a 2min wait, I would guess that the perception changes and eventually a fast spinner for long operations will lead to user frustration long term. Apple gives me a visual cue that I can contemplate my navel while it loads, potentially making the time shorter because i'm not staring at the operation. –  Chris Janssen Jun 14 '12 at 19:29
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3 Answers 3

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Yes.

http://uxmovement.com/buttons/how-to-make-progress-bars-feel-faster-to-users/ describes three ways to alter progress indicators to make them appear faster (or more palatable to users).

  1. Use Backwards Moving Ribbings
  2. Increase the Number of Pulsations (i.e. increase the speed of the spinner)
  3. Accelerate the Progress and Avoid Pauses at the End (described in the answer by Stefan.s)
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There is a paper about the influence different progress bar animations on the perceived duration of a task: http://chrisharrison.net/projects/progressbars/ProgBarHarrison.pdf

Our results suggest that users are most willing to tolerate negative progress behavior (e.g., stalls and inconsistent progress) at the beginning of an operation. Hence, process stages can be arranged such that the slower or variable operations are completed first.

I guess similar conclusions could be drawn for a spinning loading animation.

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What you ultimately run up against here is a balance of the speed of animation in the graphic and the actual time it's going to take for something to complete. Generally a faster paced animation will make the application feel faster and/or more responsive but must be considered in the context of the operation's time to complete. If you have a faster than normal speed on the graphic and an operation that takes 2 minutes to complete I wouldn't waste the time with the graphic as much as the system/workflow.

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