There is a frustrating situation that I've encountered in multiple places that is hard to describe, but the consequence is always the same; causing the user to mis-click what they meant, due to the application shifting the content when not expected.

For example, OSX has this issue with Spotlight search, Google Maps has this issue when typing into the search box, and iOS has this issue with recently used apps.

The symptoms always include...

  1. User does some action to trigger the application to show some content (types a partial query, opens a sub-menu, etc)
  2. The application presents the user with what appears to be final content (results of a search/query, a set of recently used files, etc)
  3. The application changing the results to something different, after a brief delay, without the using having done anything to prompt the change.
  4. The user clicking the wrong item because the update was not expected and done at a time when they thought the content was ready to use.

I don't think this is a latency issue. The issue is that the application misleads the user into thinking the interface is ready to use when it is not.

Is there a name for this issue?

  • 1
    I know I have this issue often with advertisements loading in after the content has, causing me to click it instead of the intended navigation. It's a latency problem, so I don't think it has a name. Though, I'm sure some sites do this on purpose so they get more clicks...then it could count as a dark UI pattern. Oct 9, 2017 at 10:20
  • Totally agree with OP: although usually caused by network latency, this is a distinct issue with the design or implementation. A similar, related issue is when a modal appears just as a user is about to click on another element, which can lead to accidentally invoking or cancelling an action.
    – aaaidan
    Dec 27, 2017 at 21:48

3 Answers 3


This does sound like a technological limit. I would consider it a latency issue, be it based on bandwidth speed to actual cpu speed.

A lot of companies avoid this issue by involving a "loading" stage and then showing the results when everything's ready to serve.

This often is done by a loading screen or a skeleton layout.

Others, such as the examples you mentioned, show the user the content as soon as it gets pulled thus having the consequence of content not showing properly in scenarios where there are server/bandwidth/memory issues.

Outright I would not say it's the target of those apps to "mislead" the users. It's more Occam's razor if anything. e.g Not having considered fallback scenarios to load content when a user hasn't got an excellent internet speed or when there's server issues.


In my opinion, this is just bad UX and it is not a common name associated. If you really want to give it a title, you can try "missing notification for auto-refresh" or "auto update issue". This is the problem that needs to be solved and accidentally clicking the wrong item is just the effect. The point is, try to solve problems first and just be aware of the effect, not focus on it.


I've never heard an industry term for this, but based on the great wording of your question I would suggest it's an "unexpected change of content".

  • Or maybe: "Incomplete action error".
    – PhillipW
    Dec 28, 2017 at 17:18

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