- Downloading and Uploading Files
- nstallation of Applications, Updates, Plug-ins, Etc.
- Starting Applications
- Long-Running Operations, Indeterminate Tasks, Etc.
- Dialog Boxes, Pop-ups, Notifications, Etc.
Long-Running Operations, Indeterminate Tasks, Etc.
Some operations and processes just need more time than others, but there are simple things you can do to make the duration more tolerable. For instance, what do you feel like doing when the recording on the phone tells you that your wait will be seven minutes? Chances are that you’ll be tempted to set a timer, because seven minutes sounds a little too exact. Having your solution be exact may seem impressive to a technical user, but for most other mainstream users, precision and details sometimes are just noise.
- Don’t give precise estimations.
- Do let users fire-and-forget.
Don’t Give Precise Estimations
People tend to gravitate to particular numbers when estimating and expressing time. Using precise units gives the impression that the given time estimates are exact, which invites users to put that precision to the test. This leads to what many will agree is "shooting yourself in the foot." Unless there’s a need for the user to see precise units, there’s no reason to use them. Most mainstream users just need instruction in getting a task done, not the precision and mechanics of how it’s done. Even if it’s true and reliable that the process takes a specific time to complete, round up to the next higher time anchor and indicate that the process will take less than that time anchor, such as "less than 10 minutes."
Do Let Users Fire-and-Forget
Unlike installations or downloads, some processes and tasks don’t have any tangible value or purpose to the user after completion. The value in these processes is that they completed successfully. Examples include system maintenance, such as scheduled antivirus scanning. For such processes, inform the user that the process will complete in the background.
Humans are the first and still the most amazing multitaskers. Watch any cooking show, and you’ll see that most people can start a task, ignore it, attend to another task, check on the first task, and return to the second task without breaking down: "As the system tabulates the flagged items, let me send off an email message to the marketing guys while I’m on the phone with you...." It may seem chaotic and disorganized to the outsider, but most people develop intricate routines, procedures, and mental gymnastics to get multiple tasks accomplished—and, more importantly, they like that. So, whenever possible, let the user "fire-and-forget" your application’s process, and just get out of their way.