UI’s that are too fast

I remember hearing a while back about a technique that certain devs used to help make parts of their user experience smoother—and it involved slowing it down. At first this seems really silly. We want the web to be fast, right? Well, yes, until it’s faster than we are.

Jumpy! Consider slowing down this type of display.

In short, showing a UI element for less than a couple seconds doesn’t give most viewers a chance to assimilate the visual information, so it makes for a disjointed, jumpy experience. An example of this would be a loading indicator that shows for a fraction of a second. In this sample, the bar doesn’t even get all the way around the ring.

In Swivel, we recently ran into a similar type of too-fast issue, where users would click on other users and start conversations with them. At first we thought this was great. Joining a conversation was as simple as clicking someone. What could be easier?

Well, as it turns out, there are many options that feel more natural than this quick-jump type of response. We considered animating the transition to at least ease the user’s perception of what was happening, but after more careful thought we realized that the problem was not the response, but it was actually a misinterpretation of the user’s intent. A user clicking someone else may have merely been exploring, and joining a 1-on-one conversation ends up being a bit jarring if all you wanted was a little discovery.

The fix? Clarify the user’s intent. This is a little harder than it seems. The primary way we communicate to the user is in how the UI responds to inputs. In lieu of bringing up a dialogue interface to say something like “Join Nick’s conversation?”, we dreamt up a solution that provides a little bit of what users probably intended.

Instead of immediately joining a conversation, a drawer-like UI provides a bit more information for exploring users while still providing a way to easily join a conversation.

We liked this solution because it helped us understand what specifically the user intended while also giving us a new space to store additional user-related options as the app’s functionality scales in the future. By no means are we decided on it yet, but it solves one of our users’ confusion points. The drawback is that it turns a simple one-click action into a two-click action. While it feels unintuitive to lengthen a process, in this case we believe the user is better served.

As you browse around apps and sites, keep your eyes open for interactions that may have been intentionally slowed down. They’re everywhere! From a site that loads up a bare-bones template before the content populates, to loading spinners and menu styles, faster isn’t always better.

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