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If a process takes a long time to execute in a tablet app and the ui is blocked during this load time, is there any benefit to informing the user what is actually being performed, e.g the stage that the process is on? I'm thinking it could aid in informing the user that something is actually happening as they may think the process has crashed if they see a loading indicator for an extended period.

e.g. Currently after tapping Login, the user sees a spinning loading indicator and the words "Logging in". However this can sometimes take up to 10 secs (I know its slow)

As the app knows what process the load is currently carrying out during the parent Login process (e.g. getting user ip, retrieving user settings, syncing user data, logging in, etc), would it be any use to indicate what step the load is on?

  • How can the login take up to a minute? To me, that seems to be the bigger issue. – Vince Caregnato Feb 9 '15 at 13:35
  • My priority is to get the dev's to increase performance. But it's my job to cater for situations that 'may' occur. – Dave Haigh Feb 9 '15 at 13:51
  • Don't get too crazy. If a user sees "Logging In - Step 2/16 - Querying Database" for 45 of the 60 seconds then your company/site will be a laughingstock. – MonkeyZeus Feb 9 '15 at 20:16
  • haha yeah true. saying a minute in the question was a bad decision, I was just trying to exaggerate the issue. – Dave Haigh Feb 11 '15 at 9:26
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Well, from a user's point of view, it's always better to show them the app is working hard instead of 'supposedly' crashing/stalling.

Some games I've seen give this a comic note by showing messages like:

  • Blurring Reality Lines
  • Initializing Dastardly Schemes
  • Atomizing Atomic Particles

While this might not be the best choice for your specific app, this does 'distract' users so their perceived loading time shortens.

This question might be of interest as well:

If you can't improve loading time, is distracting the user a good technique?

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I'd suggest that this is the same issue as delays on computers generally and people's perception:

Full details are on the link:

http://www.nngroup.com/articles/response-times-3-important-limits/

In cases where the computer cannot provide fairly immediate response, continuous feedback should be provided to the user in form of a percent-done indicator [Myers 1985].

As a rule of thumb, percent-done progress indicators should be used for operations taking more than about 10 seconds. Progress indicators have three main advantages: They reassure the user that the system has not crashed but is working on his or her problem; they indicate approximately how long the user can be expected to wait, thus allowing the user to do other activities during long waits; and they finally provide something for the user to look at, thus making the wait less painful.

This latter advantage should not be underestimated and is one reason for recommending a graphic progress bar instead of just stating the expected remaining time in numbers.

  • What if the app is not aware of how long is remaining or of how far into the process it is? e.g. it may be aware of the stage that it is on but not be aware of how many stages there are to go. – Dave Haigh Feb 9 '15 at 13:55
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Short answer is YES!

The user needs to know what is happening and to be honest 1min of spinning wheel is like a Apple beach ball - annoying and it doesn't tell me anything about when the process will be complete. The user hates being in the dark or confused.

I know you are talking about the APP but if 50% of people drop off if the site doesn't load within 3 seconds you definitely should show logging in on the granular level, like different states that you mentioned.

Take a look at Hipmunk and how they use the loading bar and a nice animation that makes the process bearable.

The other way to keep it interesting is to change an image for each state:

  • Getting IP
  • Retrieving settings
  • Syncing data

This will alleviate some of the frustration, unfortunatley this way you are not solving a real problem (1min to log in), but putting a bandage on it. If it's possible try investigating why it's taking so long, and what could be done to increase the speed of logging in.

  • Good points. However I don't think that Hipmunk link is an example of what I was suggesting in my post. It always says "Searching..." – Dave Haigh Feb 9 '15 at 13:36
  • Yes I know that, but what is nice about that example is the distraction, flying Hipmunk, so the user is not just staring at the loading bar, as I said in the answer it would be best if you add states under your loading bar/wheel/spinner... – Igor-G Feb 9 '15 at 17:01
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Indicating the process is good or at least better that showing nothing. You've already mention the main reasons.

If the users have an idea (or can rapidly form one is the use the app frequently) of what are the processes so they worked as an implicit progress bar would be better, but if they don't it's still better that showing nothing. Also remember to express it with common user language and not technical one(unless they're technical people who could appreciate/understand that).

What it's for sure is that you have to show something to the user while he/she is waiting for the app to load for several seconds or if the time the have to wait is more than they expect it to be (according to familiarity, common use, etc).

By all means you should avoid making users feel that you are wasting their time, so it's good to show them something that express that you/your app is doing something related to the process to complete the action they are expecting. You want to keep in their minds that you are helping them to achieve their goal and avoid making them think you are extending more the wait to achieve it.

A process bar will also help if its progress is continuous (if it doesn't stop or do it for very little time), leaving no chance of them thinking about the system crashing/freezing.

This is partially comparable to real life situations and that's why you have tvs, magazines and other stuff in waiting rooms.

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