Best Practices for Deploying Animated Progress Indicators to Your Advantage

If you have ever used a PC, you might as well be aware of the animated Windows symbol that appears when the system boots. It took an evolution in design and animation to develop into what we see today, but back in Windows 1995 the image did not move at all. Some of you might be thinking, why even use these animated indicators?

But consider this, would you rather prefer waiting and watching a blank screen to see your action completed? Or remain entertained with something of meaning until the screen appears again?

Among the most cardinal features of user interface design is the ability to show its progress as system status. The user needs to know if the system is aware of its action and is responding to them accordingly. Animated progress indicators are able to show the current context of the operation at almost any given time without using extensive text or video features. This makes them ideal for providing system status while the progress is being completed in the background.

Why Interacting with the User During System Progress is Important?

Who doesn’t love speedy response from an app or website? While it does mean a lot to the user, its not possible to run it in unfaltering consistency. Certain factors are always added into the equation that can hinder the speed of your application. These factors mostly include bad internet connection, slow performance due to heavy load and even program failure. In such circumstances, the best move would be to minimize the user tension and introduce reassurance that the app is working and the progress is being made. In order to do that, you must provide feedback to the user so the time does not take toll on the user’s patience.

Keep the Users Hooked with Feedback

The wait time begins almost immediately when an action is made by the user. But what makes itworse is the absence of a proper indicator for representing the system’s progress. The user naturally assumes the app has failed to respond when it fails to show a notification that the system is taking time. The results can span from rampant clicking to even user abandonment, just because the app did not provide feedback in time.

Actions that are wired to restart the progress, or refresh the system, are often made when it takes more time to load than anticipated. Yet again, the absence of feedback cannot exhibit the response of the request even though its being made in the background. That is why an animated indicator must be introduced to advocate the app’s system progress any time in need.

How to Use a Progress Indicator for Any Action That Takes Longer Than One Second?

Normally, when an app takes less than 1 second to load, the progress seems almost unhindered and the user does not lose his/her focus. However, if the loading time exceeds 1 second, then measures must be taken to keep the user engaged. The short delay becomes noticeable and the user begins to wander about the effectiveness of the task being done on the application.

That is why the app must respond through a progress indicator to offer a credible reason for the wait and reduce the user’s uncertainty before it spirals out of control. It must be noted that action that take less than one second to load does not necessarily require animation indicator, but image can do. This is recommended because an animation that keeps flashing on the screen every time an action is made, can disorient the user. Animated progress indicators are best used to neutralize the effects of prolonged waiting and keep the user engaged on the app or website.

Types of Progress Indicators
  1. Indeterminate: Animated wait indicators are designed to communicate with the user and keep them informed about their last user action. The most common and rather simplest type of wait indicator is “Indeterminate”. Such types of indicators tell users to wait for the action to complete while keeping them unaware of the time it might take to complete the progress. Its almost understood that Indeterminate progress indicator should be used for fast actions preferably within 2-10 seconds time. Any time longer than that and it might affect the user’s patience. This can increase bounce rate for a website and abandonments for applications.
  2. Determinate: In case of “Determinate” progress indicator, the time is quite spanned within the animation. Such type of indicators keep the user informed about the approximate or exact time involved to complete the progress. They are rather the more popular type of wait indicators since they show the progress from where it began, how much has been accomplished and how much more will it take to kill the wait. This helps the user remain assured about the progress being made and shown through the animation, while increasing their willingness to remain engaged to the website or application.
Looped Animation Indicator and Percentage Done Indicator
  • Looped Animation: Looped animation indicator is designed to represent progress without showing the approximate or exact loading time it will take. That is why majority looped animated progress indicators are indeterminate. For example, the Windows 7 progress indicator was designed to show the same animation repeat without any feedback of the precise time it might take to complete the progress. Besides, it included everything from booting functions, setting up of the interface operation and other forms of data loading. Due to these two reasons, users do not prefer seeing looped wait indicator to represent the loading time of the website or application.
  • Percent Done Indicator: As the name suggests, percent-done indicator shows the progress of the loading by filling the animation span, circle or bar by 0% to 100%. Since it shows the time being taken to complete the progress, percent-done indicator is classified in determinate wait indicators. For this particular quality, its best to use percent-done indicator for tasks that require more than 10 seconds to complete.

    Best Practices for Deploying Animated Progress Indicators to Your Advantage

    According to a research, 10 seconds is the threshold of average user patience. Beyond that, the user becomes reckless and grows impatient until further feedback is provided. By showing percentage-done progress indicator for processes that take more than 10 seconds to load, you can keep the user hooked to the website or application without compromising their patience.

How to Use Progress Indicators Effectively?

Using progress indicators effectively in your applications and websites can mean the difference of success and failure. Here are some tips to make sure your progress indicators perform up to mark.

  1. Keep the User Informed About the Reason for Wait: It’s a rookie mistake to keep the user oblivious about the loading progress that is being made in the background. This increases their tendency to lose patience and quit the application or website. You can keep the user informed by showing animated progress indicator accompanied by some text for additional understanding. You can showwhich process is specifically being targeted. For instance, you can show the wait progress of a video game with a loading bar and text that reads which process is being done for example, ‘loading graphics’ or ‘loading maps’ etc.
  2. Indicate a Simple Time Estimate for Task that Require Longer Periods Of Time: Do not take things to micro scales. You can keep the user engaged by providing a simple estimate. Fooling around with promises you cannot keep can irritate the users and force them to leave.
  3. Show the Precise Amount of Time Required: However, for operations that generally take more time than the average wait limit of the user, opting for determinate progress indicators will be the smarter move. The ideal choice would be percentage-done progress indicator since it brings the precise loading time into the limelight. For operations that are even longer to handle, consider using number of steps to highlight the progress made.
  4. Keep Up the Progress: Try to aim for consistency in your progress bar during loading of tasks. After a few experiences, the progress bar forces users to develop an expectation on how fast the action will be completed. Consequently, any freezes amid the progress can deliver serious blow to the expectations of the users. For instance, when the bar reaches at 99% and remains like this for a prolonged period oftime, the majority users get frustrated by this behavior and leave the application believing it got frozen. To counter this, you can mask these inconsistent delays in the progress bar by showing it move instantly and steadily.
  5. Show Progress in Bar Faster than the Actual Speed: Raw speed can be manifested by a simple perception that you can create in order to make the progress bar feel faster. You can accomplish this by designing the animation to move slow at first and pick its pace as it closes the end. This will create an illusion of speedy progress without compromising the time to complete the task.
  6. Offer a Distraction: User’s perception of time can be considerably reduced by introducing creative progress indicators. If the the app shows some interesting textual or visual details while the progress is made, it can distract the user’s mind from the time being taken to complete the action. You can offer a variety of things to keep the users busy for instance short videos, interesting facts, animations, and even trivial games.
Alternative – Use Skeletons Screens to Against Animation Progress Indicators

Although progress-animation indicators can shake almost every bad feeling that comes out of waiting, some audiences are rather resilient to these tactics. Among few good alternatives of making the users wait without using progress indicators is a method called skeleton screen. Also known as temporary information containers, these techniques involve showing the progress in real time to the user instead of opening a loading bar. Imagine a blank screen being gradually filled with its components and elements until its completely stocked. This creates an illusion that the application is acting with the loading time and their wait is being rewarded with the progress shown.

It not only keeps them audience engaged with the website or application, but also keeps them trigger ready to complete their next task. While progress indicators are also excellent means of satisfying the users, they fail to maintain the energy within the users that skeleton screen keep up during their loading progress.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter how swift our app or website operations are, there is always a chance of uninvited processing time. Using animated wait-progress indicators such as percent-done indicators and loading spinners help reassure users of the ongoing processes and the current state of the system. As a result, it increases the likelihood of them staying on the website or application to wait for the loading and carry on with their remaining tasks. Calculating the time required for the processes to complete, you must assign he appropriate type of progress animation indicators.

A looped indicator is ideal for operations that take 2-10 seconds, while more time consuming operations can be assisted with percentage done indicator. Incase of looped animation and skeleton screens, its best to go for skeleton screens since they are capable of taking on any action that goes beyond a few milliseconds, and still keeping it cool with the users.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for this blog. provided great information. All the details are explained clearly with the great explanation. Thanks for this wonderful blog. Step by step processes execution are given clearly.Know the details about different thing.

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