This question is illustrated by my personification of 3 microwave ovens:

  • Microwave 1 is rude. It beeps when time expires and keeps beeping even after I open the door. It also beeps to cancel settings if I open the door before it times out. It doesn't respect my need to discretely heat the last muffin. Busted!

  • Microwave 2 is reluctantly compliant. It beeps when time expires but will cancel the beep if I open the door before time expires. If I open the door at the correct picosecond, I can also avoid resetting the timer and avoid all beeping.

  • Microwave 3 is an indulging butler. He will beep only after several seconds beyond the time I entered to heat the muffin. I can imagine a conspiratorial wink as I open the door before the beep even starts.

I am sure this concept applies to other domains besides time. It is distinct from, but relates to "hover intent" or "Hysteresis". These terms refer to carefully timed closely coupled sequences, such as menu drop-down/flyouts so that they don't interfere with organic mouse motion and course correction.

I am not satisfied that the term "grace period" applies since that term is associated with lateness and/or some undeserved discretion being granted.

I think it is important to be able to have a term to describe this concept: it is very ephemeral, but a powerful lever in evoking positive emotional responses in user experience.

  • 1
    I would call it deferred response, but a bit of googling doesn't seem to prove my point. Anyway, another real-life example is an instant search mechanism that gives you a fraction of a second to enter another character before it starts hitting the database. – ammoQ Jan 20 '15 at 14:03
  • 1
    A techy would call it lag. – paparazzo Jan 20 '15 at 16:36
  • Another example might be text input on a 12-button phone. You press the "7pqrs" button twice to produce the letter Q, but the phone is giving you a tiny bit more time to change your mind and press it once more for the R. – hemflit Feb 19 '15 at 1:04

This case is not exactly about 'waiting' and 'feedback'. In general, feedback should be immediate.

The underlying issue is that an input event may or may not correspond to the user's intended action. There are a multitude of examples for such inconclusive inputs:

  • The first in a double click event.
  • Mouse-enter event on an on-hover element (where the mouse path target may be different than the on-hover element).
  • Key input on an input field representing a query that yields suggested matches.

An inconclusive input can be made conclusive by waiting for the next input (another click, mouse-leave, another key input). A process that is generally within the computer science world is known as input buffering, whilst in electronics as input hold queue.

(It is perhaps worth saying that our brain employs a similar mechanism - the brain doesn't process each word individually, but accumulates them until the lot makes a semantic sense).

Now, if event X happens first, but a following event Y will change the response of the system (so X is different than XY), but there is no certainty event Y will arrive, the system simply holds any X until:

  • A conclusive sequence has been entered.
  • A timeout period has elapsed.

So, conceptually, the term you are searching for may be referred to as the input hold timeout, or possibly input delay.

While neither is a common term in UX, I hope this answer serves to explain the underlying concept.

  • I am searching for a term that describes the wait period as a positive feature. These suggestions seem ambiguous or negative - input delay is usually not a good thing. – davidjmcclelland Jan 23 '15 at 22:17

I am going to propose using the term "dwell".

Dwell refers to an interval where a mechanical motion pauses in a linkage that is in reciprocal motion, such as a piston.

I think it fits because of the analogy between links, timing, and periodicity.

It isn't a perfect analogy because interactions are not mechanical in nature and don't go on indefinitely.


You're saying to the computer "Thanks, I got this".

  • Manual override
  • System override
  • Override of automatic behaviour
  • Its a default system behavior- not an override. – davidjmcclelland Jan 23 '15 at 22:14
  • I meant the human overrides the system behaviour – invisible squirrel Jan 23 '15 at 22:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.