I have to create a "please wait" page on our website. I would think you usually put the words "please wait" with some kind of spinning animation, but do I really need text?

Doesn't an hourglass or whirling gears rotating animation suffice or what is preferred? I'm seeing more of this than text it seems on sites now.

  • 1
    Can you tell us how long is going to be the wait approximately? And in what situations it is going to be necessary? Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 7:14
  • I'm using a throbber animation I found on AjaxLoad (ajaxload.info) and it's not long of a wait. Usually a second of wait time or less depending on network traffic.
    – user9533
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 16:45
  • 1
    For such a short wait time I don't really think text information is necessary. Should it take more (say, 5 or more seconds) user could get annoyed and unsure if the site has not become unresponsive. Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 18:53
  • 5 seconds sounds like a short time when you say it, but in practice I think users have a much shorter time before their brains start wondering if the thing is broken or if something is still processing. Commented May 29, 2014 at 21:43

4 Answers 4


It's all about feedback.
You have some choices to make in order to give the proper feedback to the user according to the situation you're facing, here are some guidelines for text and animations:

  1. Text: helps to be explicit about the type of wait that the users should expect. Why do they need to wait? do they need to be aware of the reasons of the waiting time? "Please wait" or "Copying file from X to Y..." can be very different in terms of the user's expectations and easing the waiting time.
  2. Animations: there is a whole topic on the type of animations, usually there are two scenarios: when progress is determinate and when it's not. For determinate progress you'd probably use a progress bar with a % indicator. While for indeterminate progress there are some alternatives: progress bars with no % and throbbers.

Here are some interesting articles on the topic:


With CSS3 animations you can get pretty creative. There is no need to stick with the traditional way. For one of my applications I have a 10px (height) rainbow bar that spans the browser 100%. It is hidden by default and when views and pages are loading it slides down and animates. That is because our clients like non-obtrusive animations, but they still want the animations.

I would think about who the user is. I know persona's are old news but still very useful when making decisions like this. Hope this helped.


Nowadays hourglass or or whirling gears rotating animations are preferred over text. They are more engaging, than text as they presents visual stimulus to the users. Sometimes, they show the progress also, helping the user to know, how long he has to wait.

In few cases, animation with text are preferred. But the big advantage of using an animation is that it gives an engaging experience and shall show the status.

  • 3
    Who says that rotating animations are preferred over text?
    – JonW
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 8:57
  • I think a humble plain text "Please wait" seems more sincere to me than playful animations.
    – JAT86
    Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 13:29

If you don't put text in addition to the image, don't forget to write “Please wait” in the alt attribute of the image. Writing the alt attribute of images is mandatory on the Web. This is important for accessibility.

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