Web Performance Fundamentals

Psychology of Waiting

Web Performance Fundamentals

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The "Psychology of Waiting" Lesson is part of the full, Web Performance Fundamentals course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Todd explains why some waiting experiences feel longer than others. When users see a lack of activity or an unexplained reason for why something isn't loading the experience will feel longer.


Transcript from the "Psychology of Waiting" Lesson

>> So what we're just experimenting with is the psychology of waiting. Each of us waited while we watch the site's load. And each of us had a different feeling, a different perception of how much time we spent, and whether that time was worth it. And that wait time is subjective.

We can't necessarily say what is okay to one person is going to be okay to the next. But, we can think about it and apply some general rules. Let's say I go out to the pub, and I walk up to the bar, and not that you can walk into a bar these days, but let's say I did, and the bar was empty, as it clearly should be.

Well I could go up and order a drink, and the bartender should get right to me. I should have a very fast interaction. But the bartender probably expected the bar to dead, and so he took his sweet time about it. And even though I might have only waited a minute to get my drink, it felt like a long time, because the bartender didn't have anything to do.

And I didn't have anybody to talk to, and I was just bored. Whereas, if I go into a pub in the before times, the pub will be busy, there'd be people there. I'd wanna talk to them, and I'd go up to the bar and I'd order a drink, and it might also take a minute or so to get me my drink because the bartender's busy doing other things.

But there's a bustling scene there, and I'm talking to people, and I'm seeing what's going on. And so it doesn't feel as long because I understand why the bartender took that time. And I had other things to do during that time. And that's what's important to understand because that applies to the web as well, is how much time we spend depends on our expectations of how long it should take.

And what we can do while we're waiting. And this is called perceived performance. So there's some general rules that we can extract from this around the psychology of waiting. And the first is that people want to start their activity, they want to get going. If we give them a way to start earlier, they feel like the wait time is less.

But if they want to start and we are slowing them down, they're gonna feel like it's more, even if objectively we're only doing the same amount of wait time. Second, bored time feels slower, if the user doesn't have anything to do, they don't have anything to look at, the time will go slower.

I think many of us will instinctively understand that if you've ever taken a road trip in the times before electronics, and all you had to do was stare out the window. You were bored. You had nothing to do. The car trip took forever, even if it was only two hours.

Anxious time feels slower than relaxed time. If you're at a website and it's bringing up, say medical records, how a lab test went or whether or not you're approved for a loan for a house or something else that is a high stress activity. That time feels slower than if you're just clicking on something that doesn't matter, because you're worried about it.

You want to get through to it and you curse that loading screen that's keeping you from understanding what the future holds. Unexplained wait times feel slower than explained wait times, that bartender with nothing to do that time felt slower because I didn't understand why it was taking them so long.

If I don't know why I'm waiting, that also feels slower. Like how long am I going to wait for? How long is this gonna take? Is this gonna be a minute, five minutes, ten minutes, an hour? if I don't know how long this is gonna be, it feels forever.

And the sixth and final rule that I have is that people will wait for value. If something is more valuable to you, you'll wait longer for it. But if it's an article on CNN about nothing, well, if it doesn't load pretty quick, you're just gonna get bored and move on with your day.

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