Intentionally Slowing Down the User Experience

The UX Secret That Will Ruin Apps For You – Fast Company

Facebook actually slows down its interface to make users feel safe, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed in an email. “While our systems perform these checks at a much faster speed than people can actually see, it’s important that they understand what we do behind the scenes to protect their Facebook account[.] UX can be a powerful education tool and walking people through this process at a slower speed allows us to provide a better explanation and an opportunity for people to review and understand each step along the way.”

This reminds me of the game Eternal Darkness, a critical darling released for the Nintendo Gamecube back in 2002. I remember reading (yes, we read our game news in 2002) an interview with the designers who said they had to artificially extend the load times between areas in the game. This was at odds with just about every game on the market at the time, as gamers in general were complaining of load times that were far too long.

The game’s developer, Silicon Knights had been clever enough that for all intents and purposes there was no wait at all in loading one area to another. If they were doing what people said they wanted and made their load times as fast as possible, they would literally flash from one location to another in a fraction of a second. In their testing, they found this disoriented players. People need a moment to understand that their environment is changing, and reducing the transition time effectively to zero was not a good experience. In the end, Silicon Knights added a technically unnecessary black screen between areas in the game.

What’s interesting about both of these examples is that as humans, we need time to process information differently from a computer. While our brains are said to be orders of magnitude more powerful than the fastest computers, we don’t operate the same as the machines. An iPhone can process your search result in milliseconds, but our brains need a moment to understand that our command is being executed. A Nintendo Gamecube can load colors on a screen in 1/60 of a second and it’s no different to it whether the scene 1/60 of a second ago matches the scene 1/60 of a second later, but us humans need an indication that time and space is changing.

I find it very interesting that in a field that is always talking about faster, faster, and faster everything, we’re running into the limits of what our brains will tolerate.