My application displays data that can be periodically changed. Changes follow 5-10 times per second. I have to avoid so frequent updates to increase application performance. But I have to add some safe option: refresh frequency, or something else, that user can change refresh frequency. My question is: what is the better (user friendly) way to ask user about this value?

[Refresh frequency]: 5 times per second

or [Refresh delay]: refresh data with 5 seconds delay


I will use track bar control to display this magic value.


enter image description here

  • 3
    Careful. Putting this under individual user control could create a tragedy of the commons. Each user may max out the refresh rate figuring the more the better. They each think “I’m just one user so the marginal impact on performance is miniscule.” But everyone thinks that. Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 12:25
  • @Michael Zuschlag You are completely right. I think so. I will try to explain that if application is too busy, so it is necessary to use low rates. I will limit dangerous refresh frequency values.
    – igor
    Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 12:37
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    Instead of "refresh data with [ 5 ] seconds delay" how about "refresh data every [ 5 ] seconds"? Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 12:40
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    @Patrick. Yes I like that. "Delay" makes it sound like the system is actively withholding something. "Every n seconds" is more concise and makes it sound like the system is working harder to send the user data. Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 11:12
  • @Michael Zuschlag, @Patrick McElhaney Agreed. It's natural and it is understandable, but application has some ui style (it uses some scope of controls in the same situation). So it requires slider control. Of course, I could have used Patrick's solution in an application that had "37 signals" ui style (highrisehq.com/tour).
    – igor
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


The Trackbar control might make the most sense. You can even consider highlighting the optimal range: enter image description here

In any case, if optimal value is one time per 6-10 seconds I would also warn them if they chose a number that is less frequent then this, but still allow them to do so (up to a certain point).

If you use a regular input field, and the user deletes the default value to put in their own value they might have to guess a few times before inputting a value that doesn't return an error or warning. So then you also have the problem of creating clear error and warning messages. Trackbar is just an easy way around this.

Below the trackbar I would convert their selected setting to text and say "Refresh X times per second" or "X second delay between data updates."

  • I have updated my question.
    – igor
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 8:05
  • Go for whichever will make the most-usual settings, or most-sensible settings, whole numbers.

If your users will typically be updating between 1 and 5 times per second, then use 'refreshes per second'. If your users will typically be updating between 1 and 0.2 times per second, well, they will have to think less about what that means if you offer them 'delay between refreshes'.

You only really have a problem choosing if you want to offer a range of values that includes values both faster and slower than once per second. If you want to bias people towards slow rates, use delay. Other things being equal, I'd bet on being able to achieve rates above once per second the vast majority of the time, and so go for refreshes per second.

  • I will reject values more then 1 refresh (update) per second. The optimal value equals to 1 time per 6-10 seconds.
    – igor
    Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 11:53
  • Then presenting it as a delay (whole number of seconds) is the natural choice. Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 11:58
  • If the range is between 0.2 and 5 times per second, another way to get whole numbers is to switch units: every 200-5000 milliseconds or 12-300 times per minute. Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 13:43

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