Whilst I'd always prefer an estimated time, I get that's not always possible, so we fall back to the tried and personally hated, loading spinner.

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I've always thought that having it do one iteration every second was super helpful. It provided an frame of relativity for measuring loading times. Although as I write that I'm thinking I know the answer, but let's try anyway:

How to decide on a speed for the iteration of a loading spinner, and why is a set default like 1 second not seemingly the norm?

  • 2
    Anyone else stressed looking at that spinner? "It's like an unclosed quote.
    – Tom
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 9:29
  • 6
    It's so fast moving it's making me anxious. Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 9:48
  • Step. Away. From. The spinner. Do not turn around. Just gently move the mouse slowly towards the tab. Click the cross. OK, you're safe. Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 9:53
  • Aside from potentially triggering epileptics, I don't think there are any guidelines about the speed of a spinner - check with your users. Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 10:45

3 Answers 3


There are some comments on the question which are quite telling - some people can get stressed or anxious when they have difficulty following the motion of an animation or sequence.

Yes, there is research to show that a faster animation is perceived as a faster application, but it is possible to animate too quickly, especially when the area involved is larger - filling a greater percentage of the view. This is especially important on smaller screens where the animation takes up a relatively larger proportion of the framed view.

The speed of an animation affects whether the viewer can identify a small part of the image transitioning, or the overall image appearing to flash or pulsate, with the detail being unidentifiable - a blur.

There are accessibility issues around making animations happen too fast, causing dizziness. Motion sensitivity and other vestibular disorders are often related to designs with parallax scrolling or badly timed animations, but when the user is focussed on small areas of pulsing animation, that can be problematic too.

For rotation where a dizziness or anxiety can ensue, that the rotational animation should either be avoided or counteracted with a balancing reverse direction motion to cancel out the directional effects.

So being 'smooth' and balanced is important so that the animation can be followed. This doesn't even require the whole thing to transition, but perhaps small elements moving within the whole can suggest a decent speed of progress without the whole image being distracting. I think this is why more 'interesting' animations are becoming more popular, where the loading image is made of individual animated components creating a balanced and harmonius movement within the context of the loader, rather than the whole loader shaking or rotating for example.

So in my opinion there is no right answer, since:

  • I don't think directional spinners are a good answer in the first place.
  • I don't think one given speed of rotation (or rather frequency) will be suitable for all, as different people have different perceptions and disorders.
  • I don't think a 'whole image' transformation is the right effect.




I'd also argue it depends on the size of the spinner. Bigger views need to spin slower than smaller ones.


How to decide on a speed for the iteration of a loading spinner... ?

  • Experiment 1. Show users random pairs of spinner speeds. Have them choose their preferred speed of the two. Repeat.... Repeat... Repeat... Use the speed that appears to be most preferred.

  • Experiment 2. Randomize the speed of the spinner for different users. Monitor users to see if spinner speed has any effect on user behavior, like increased mistakes (possibly caused by spinner-induced anxiety). Use a speed that has the least negative effect on user performance.

  • Genetic algorithm. Create a pool of random spinners. Have users rate how much they like them. "Kill" the least liked. "Mate" the most liked. "Mutate" a bunch of survivors. Repeat... Repeat... Repeat...

... why is a set default like 1 second not seemingly the norm?

  • Developers and designers may tweak the speed to their personal preference, or they may let the animator decide.

  • There may be a fairly wide range of acceptable speeds, as long as it is not anxiety-inducingly fast or mind-numbingly slow.

  • May be related to linear speed along the circumference, rather than radial speed, as chris07 suggests.

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