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I need to change from route A to route B in a mobile app. Route B requires new data to be fetched. My question is quite simple: Are there studies that show whether mobile app users prefer / expect apps to 1) send users to the new route and wait there while the data loads, or 2) stay on the current route and then display the second route when all the data has loaded?

My hunch is users prefer the former (this is much closer to the "progressive rendering" philosophy of modern single page apps), but I'm wondering if there is empiric research that supports this claim. Any pointers others can offer on research in this area would be helpful!

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Users don’t care about the route, but they do care how long they have to wait and if they feel like they’re progressing toward their goal

In some SPAs routing may not exist, making this more of a responsiveness question. In your case it does so I would recommend you change routes immediately and then fill the void with positive feedback as you progressively display the page and load the data. Changing route would be one method to help reinforce progression, but this can also be done regardless of route.

Longer answer

The perception of wait time can drastically impact the user experience. Actions or requests that are fulfilled immediately can feel unresponsive. There’s an interesting study on this by NNGroup regarding application responsiveness. They determined there are three main thresholds for wait times in an application:

https://www.nngroup.com/articles/website-response-times/

• 0.1 seconds gives the feeling of instantaneous response. • 1 second keeps the user's flow of thought seamless • 10 seconds keeps the user's attention ... After 10 seconds, they start thinking about other things, making it harder to get their brains back on track once the computer finally does respond

*Note: more current research suggests the ceiling for load time is more like 3 seconds before application abandonment occurs *

Wait time is different from time occupied.

Waiting can be excruciating for us humans. And, we spend a good majority of our lives in this very act. But, there are ways to alleviate the pain of waiting, changing their perception, and create a better experience for users.

  1. Fill the time with something meaningful
  2. Justify the wait time
  3. Be transparent about how long they will wait

Additional reading

https://neilpatel.com/blog/loading-time/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/experience-design/mobile-page-speed-load-time/amp/

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    +1 I have seen many of your solid and well-thought out answers recently. Would love to hear your thoughts on some of 'ethics' tagged questions :) – Michael Lai Dec 21 '19 at 22:07
  • Thanks for the kind words @MichaelLai I’ll give it a look 😃 – Mark Dec 22 '19 at 0:36
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A lot of the findings for web need to be reconsidered for mobile, to simply apply web best-practices on mobile is to approach mobile poorly. If you don't dig deeper than web UX on mobile then you are effectively making websites on mobile, the experience will be lackluster.

You don't need to change from route A to route B, the User does. Why does the User need to do that? When does the User need to do that? How often does the User need to do that? What is the probability that the User will need to do that?

If the probability warrants pre-fetching, then prefetching is probably a good idea. Prefetching may not be a great idea if you are targeting low income Users, but it might be an increasingly good idea if targeting Users in poor connectivity areas.

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