I asked my self this question based on this answer to the question about elevator-button affordance issues: Users in a hurry or hectic mood are willing to press any kind of elevator-button to prevent (or force) the door to stay open (or shut). I'm not looking for a tweak how to handle this specific problem. I wan't to generalize an issue.

To know how to interact with a system takes a moment of patience to pick up and learn how the system (or parts of it) work. It is our job to make this as simple and straight forward as possible. But going a step further and making the user enhance his expertise and letting him experience that, would increase the UX of the product.

Hence my question. Is it our job as UX/UI Designers to gently force the users we are designing for to slow down in specific situations? Is this possible especially for micro-tasks (excluding complex procedures in software with help, intro and how-to features)?

Or is this a very personal (lifestyle) decision users must make for their own while we provide straight-forward products "only"?

2 Answers 2


Yes, you get to control the pace. It's a form of storytelling. Sometimes you don't want to roll everything out all at once. All of these pacing decisions need to be weighed against how much value those pauses in the action will deliver.

Progressive disclosure: Maybe you can reduce or prevent errors by using progressive disclosure patterns. De-cluttering a busy interface can help reduce user confusion. Providing a first-time-in coach can help people get started quickly. Remember "Welcome" screens? That was their function; to get people started with the site by providing a small introduction to the purpose of the site.

Also consider how building in pauses might harm the product, the user or the interaction. Is the feature really available in this mode, but you're just hiding it? Does that harm the experience?

Feedback: Take your button-mashing example. People mash because in the absence of feedback they don't know what else to do. What if the device was a heart defibrillator? Getting a user to pause (or get locked out) between presses would indeed be valuable, especially if the device gave no feedback, but delivered shocks only every hour or so, and queued up all the button presses to deliver many big shocks later.

Coaching: Many apps have a "coach" feature now that walks you through interactions the first time in. This is one way of approaching it. The best coaches tell you what you need to know to get started, and don't over-explain. Also, you can dismiss them immediately if you like.

Dismissable help: A coach is an offer of assistance that presents proactively. As I mentioned, you don't have to use the coach, it's merely a suggestion that is quickly and easily dismissed, like the one-page Ikea instructions. ;-)

  • Are stressed users willing to slow down if I control the pace with welcome screens, white spaces, progressive disclosure etc. if I literally force them to? Or will they even get more angry and stressed? The elevator user would know which button to press if she took a second to figure it out. Can and should we force her to that second?
    – uxfelix
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 8:13
  • Maybe they will take the time to figure it out, or simply close the window (or take the stairs). These judgment calls about pacing have to be based on business needs, user research, metrics; something real. People get stressed using computers all the time, but the interaction designer does control the pace, whether they barf everything up on the screen and force the user to figure it out, or walk them down the garden path. Both approaches will influence the pace. If the IxD takes the barfing approach, the burden to learn is entirely on the user. Is it worth it to them? Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 13:30
  • 1
    I think the elevator example is interesting to dissect in cogsci.stackexchange.com. On one hand if you don't present feedback to users, they will smash the button until the system signals that the order was acknowledged. On the other hand, when users are in a hurry they feel comfort in taking action and not waiting idle. This gives a feeling that you are making things work faster when in fact you are just entertaining yourself smashing buttons, and that will not make things work faster.
    – jff
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 20:09
  • At my old workplace we had some elevator lights that went out. People pressed these often enough and aggressively to crack the plastic covers. Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 20:15
  • So you say it's the users decision to slow down if he is willing to learn @LindaBrammer ?
    – uxfelix
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 12:20

Another aspect:

Make the user understand the importance of what he does, especially if it is not revocable.

As an extreme case, GitHub slows the user down when he tries to delete his repository:

github repo delete

  • Red "Danger Zone": Sounds dangerous, and the red is visually aggressive, too.
  • "No going back": Explaining the consequences - this will easily be dismissed in a hurry, it will rather function as a gentle reminder, once the concept is learned.
  • Popup: Not only it is modal, there is no "OK/Cancel", you actually can't click on the button. All the user expectations are violated. So there you are, having an empty text box and no clue what to put in. And then you really have to read to solve this challenge.

Github voluntarily decreases usability here, in order to force the user to actually read. Now if this pattern was used for 10 other action (or for action that need to be used on a daily basis), it would get annoying and users will "learn" how to circumvent it.

So match the "speed limit" to the importance of the concept you are trying to teach.

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