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We tried recommending a loader with a percentage, but the development team said the percentage cannot be implemented since they can't determine how long the search would take.

How should the user be informed that the search is still working and not stuck along with an animated icon?

  • Here's a lot of helpful answers: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/102957/… – Wanda Sep 6 '18 at 15:03
  • The dev team is correct about the percentage. You need to request that they optimize the search process and make it faster. Wait times kill engagement. – MonkeyZeus Sep 6 '18 at 17:11
  • How long is long? Seconds? Tens of seconds? Minutes? How variable is that? – jcaron Sep 6 '18 at 23:37
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I can give you a tip about animation. I know that may not help you with your specific problem, but maybe can give you an insight.

I've recently passed by a similar circumstance, not in a search but in a registration, (that was taking more than 10 seconds). We've decided to show the real process behind the creation of an account, with bullet points that looked like "creating your account..." "setting up your environment" that was shown one by one, in a way that we could entertain the user.

After the process is complete, the phrase turns into another colour, with a "check" icon replacing the bullet, and the message changes to "Account created with success!"

It really smooth out the experience.

  • I like this approach, because otherwise the user may think the action is stuck. Showing updates like Grigorini suggests shows the action is not stuck but is continuing grinding through its actions. – bart Sep 6 '18 at 17:20
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You could offer an indeterminate loading animation with some non-specific messaging that changes over time, e.g.

  • Searching
  • Preparing results
  • This is taking longer than usual, but we're still working on it
  • We're sorry it's taking so long. Thanks for your patience

etc etc

This all partly depends on the tone of voice of your site/application but it can be used to great effect and could even help to reinforce the brand. Although if you're often finding that the above is necessary, it would probably be wise to address the underlying issue that's causing the delay!

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User should know what is going on.

And: what is going on is processing a long process. Just being honest, and showing a loader with a clever message like "this search will take some time. Please hold on" should be enough. Also disabling possible other functions like filtering, sorting or other functions would be fine to keep program under control.

For developer team:

The given percentage should not be so realistic. Even Windows is still making so many mistakes while calculating time to be completed. So, a loader with estimations based on not real-time values should be good enough for this case.

Showing already loaded items

I'm also wondering why it would not be an option?

  • The problem with "please hold on" is that the user may think the action is stuck if it takes too long. – bart Sep 6 '18 at 17:21

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