I'm developing an App that saves a user time doing something by giving the user instrcutions every step of the way.

To make it more rewarding to use the App I want to give him some feedback on how much time he saved today/month/week. The overall message should be "You always save time using this App". Especially I want to notify the user about saving time right after he starts the App to not have the reward in some rather distant uncertain future.

When he clicks "start" I can estimate how much time he may save. When he clicks finish (and then I know how much time it actually took), I can tell him something like "You actually saved 10 minutes". But this only applies when everything goes according to plan. For example the user might take a break in between or get distracted by a phone call or don't do everything according to the Apps instructions (thinking he found a shortcut or something).

In any of these cases the statistics are becoming invalid. So doing a straight forward approach the App might conclude "Hey you lost 15mins, because you used the App", when in fact it was 'the useres fault' (which of course I don't want to communicate to the user in that way).

So this is getting complicated rather quickly and I know that my description is rather vague and might leave more questions than answers, but what it comes down to is the following:

What if I took the measurement, gave the prediction to the user right at the beginning and then ONLY if the user actually saved time after he finished, give the user the results and otherwise just drop it. Otherwise I would implement logic that tries to figure out what happened and ask the user what went wrong ("Did you take a break?") etc.. But I find this rather elaborate, because this should be some lightweight feedback and not something that requires too much interaction. Does anybody have experience whether the user might get suspicious, feel betrayed, etc? Keep in mind that (also for the sake of argument) that this is not to cheat the user but rather to avoid the user "cheating" the system. Assume that if the user followed the App, he could NOT lose time.

  • 1
    When the user is performing the task, are they interacting with the app or do they put the app to one side while they do it? I'm just wondering if you could detect inactivity.
    – Matt Obee
    Sep 2, 2014 at 8:55
  • Detecting inactivity would be very unreliable in this case.
    – fancy
    Sep 2, 2014 at 9:47
  • A person saves time by using your app but he might have wasted time by using another app say facebook? Is that right
    – Mervin
    Sep 3, 2014 at 9:11

3 Answers 3


Building on tillinberlin answer above - make time savings an optional feature. User will participate in the choice to track, and so will be more inclined to click pause to preserve integrity of results. Will also have some ownership if results are negative, less inclination to blame app.

Users who choose not to track- give a summarized result or no results - they chose not to get any, and so don't expect any.

  • Thanks. Involving the user might actually do the trick. Isn't this kind of the thing Google does with letting you choose one of three routes to take "based on traffic"?
    – fancy
    Sep 5, 2014 at 12:18

My personal impression is I would feel betrayed, if there wasn't any feed back at all whenever I used too much time – be it my fault, answering a phone call or having a coffe break – or just because this one time it just took longer, to complete the task. So I would recommend to always give feedback.

However – the way you describe the app I would expect the app to have a rather game-ish look and feel. And so your idea of asking the user for a reason for the unexpected delay ("Did you take a break?") sounds like a good idea to me:

I don't know if this fits your concept – but I would suggest implementing a function that lets the counter (and the user) pause would be a very good idea. This way the user can see that the app is actually aware of the possibility, that there could be delays. And on the other hand the time measured by the app would also be closer to the time actually needed to complete the task. So in the end there could still be the "you saved time" message – even though the overall time spent from start till finish would be more.

You could probably also add a net/gross feedback: "Without your coffee break you would have been done at 4:30" or the like. And try not to look at it as "bad results" – it's negative results – at least from a mathmatical point of view.


I have the following suggestions :

  • At the beginning give estimated total time as a range. Keep the range wide.

  • At the end, display time saved per step. If for a specific step, the actual time is much more than the estimated, display a message like “You had a break or an interruption. Time not included in total.”

  • Don’t ask any feedback from users during or after the task, because it will require extra effort. This comes against the concept of your app which is "save time and effort".

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