An image of someone frustrated using a mobile devices that says “wait.”
An image of someone frustrated using a mobile devices that says “wait.”

A Guide to Keeping Users Engaged While They Wait

Morgan Davis
Apr 27 · 7 min read

The right information level can make or break an experience.

While working with my DocuSign Product and Design partners, I had the opportunity to design a research study investigating the impact different information levels can have on a user. We knew our users were going to experience a wait time as our system completed a verification process. We needed to ensure users weren’t frustrated as they waited and ideally turn that waiting time into an opportunity to inform and build trust. We discussed our options, explored concepts, and evaluated them ultimately providing an improved product offering.

The most important agreements require us to ask “Can I see your ID?”

For some highly sensitive documents, people need to verify a signer first. DocuSign ID Verification is a solution that enables senders to verify signers’ identities before they access agreements. It supports government photo IDs and eIDs (electronic identifications) by analyzing the document security features (barcodes, holograms, etc..) and matching the name on the agreement against the name on the ID. After a successful verification, the signer can view and sign the agreement.

Your brand needs to shine brightest when things go wrong.

After the system scans an ID, background checks are performed forcing signers to wait to find out if their ID will be verified. Failed verification can happen for a variety of reasons: a blurry image, an incorrectly cropped photo, etc. We needed to make sure the experience of waiting for an ID to verify didn’t overwhelm signers and we didn’t want them to give up after a bad try. We needed our brand to shine so signers would tell their colleagues how simple it is to verify their identity and sign agreements with DocuSign. As the lead researcher on this project, I worked with my design partner to explore strategies to ensure users weren’t frustrated or overwhelmed as they waited for their ID to be verified.

Early designs provided limited information while a signer waited.

Our initial designs shared little information with a signer as they waited to find out if the system would successfully verify their ID document. The system informed the user: “We’re uploading images. Don’t close the browser.” As the signer waits, the system analyzes the ID and the API performs checks to ensure the ID is valid. At the time of the study, wait times were exceeding 15 seconds and initial designs didn’t tell the signer how it performed these checks or provide updates to the signer while they waited. We lacked in-depth API details about potential fail points during the verification process, had tight deadlines, and were tasked with deciding if adding animations during the wait period were table stakes or a nice to have. We needed data to help drive our decision-making process!

An image of a mobile device saying “We’re uploading your images.”
An image of a mobile device saying “We’re uploading your images.”
Figure 1. An image of early design providing limited information to a user.

Will signers feel more comfortable waiting if we provide more information while they wait?

I designed a study that evaluated both success and fail states so we could compare them. My Design partner created three prototypes with different levels of information for the signer as they waited for their ID to be verified. Each design had either limited information, some information, or detailed information.

We created success and failure test groups so we could compare both end states across the three designs.

An image illustrating six test groups with limited, some, and detailed levels of information.
An image illustrating six test groups with limited, some, and detailed levels of information.
Figure 2. 120 participants distributed across success and failure end states with different levels of information.

We tested three information levels; limited, some, and detailed.

An image that shows the three designs ranging from limited to detailed information.
An image that shows the three designs ranging from limited to detailed information.
Figure 3. Three designs ranging from limited to detailed information.

I asked users for feedback and collected metrics.

I collected feedback on the following metrics, analyzed the data, and made comparisons across the different designs and end states. Metrics included:

  • Trust
  • Perception of being informed
  • Perception of time
  • Sentiment (positive vs negative)
  • Perception of success

More information resulted in failure feeling positive.

The team learned that detailed updates on how the system is verifying the ID and what is happening while a signer waits felt positive even when a signer failed to verify their identity. We used these insights to design a more positive experience by making sure signers were informed, had low frustration levels, and perceived the time to verify was shorter than they expected.

Design with the following goals in mind:

Keep users informed: Participants who failed and experienced detailed updates reported positive sentiment levels.

Bar chart that shows signer sentiment after waiting for an ID to be verified.
Bar chart that shows signer sentiment after waiting for an ID to be verified.
Figure 4. Signer sentiment after waiting for an ID to be verified.
  • Checking for blur and glare
  • Reviewing ID information
  • Checking ID expiration date
  • Finalizing security checks
  • Matching ID name to documents
  • Your ID has been verified or we can’t verify your ID
Bar chart that shows signer frustration while waiting for an ID to be verified.
Bar chart that shows signer frustration while waiting for an ID to be verified.
Figure 5. Signer frustration while waiting for an ID to be verified.
Bar chart that shows how long signers perceived the wait time was.
Bar chart that shows how long signers perceived the wait time was.
Figure 6. Perceived wait times across the three test groups.

You may be asking “What happened next?”

At DocuSign, Research and Design teams partner together during the formative phase of the design cycle to test concepts and validate hypotheses. In this example, we were successful in collecting directional data to help ensure final designs would keep signers feeling positive even when they experienced a wait time and a failed end state. The findings above illustrate participants viewing detailed contextual information while they wait for their ID to verify reported low perceived wait times, low frustration levels, and a positive overall experience even when failing to verify. We continued iterating on the designs after the study and launched our ID Verification experience as a component of DocuSign Identify. As you work with your teams remember to:

  • Reduce frustration: don’t just think about the happy path; consider failure states too
  • Reduce perceived wait time: provide relevant distractions to keep users informed
  • What delivery mechanisms (animations vs interactivity) would have the most impact?
  • What impact does information relevance have on sentiment?

DocuSign Design

We’re designing and writing for a more agreeable world…

Morgan Davis

Written by

Manager, User Research @ DocuSign

DocuSign Design

We’re designing and writing for a more agreeable world every day. This collection gives a peek into how we work and the things we are building.

Morgan Davis

Written by

Manager, User Research @ DocuSign

DocuSign Design

We’re designing and writing for a more agreeable world every day. This collection gives a peek into how we work and the things we are building.

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