Designing for the impatient user
‘Patience is a virtue’ is a statement that does not resonate with most people anymore; especially when it comes to technology.
I am not from a generation that wrote letters and mailed them to communicate with each other. Waiting for DAYS to receive a response is a concept that I cannot even contemplate. The advancement of technology has made most of us privileged.
Year after year our internet speeds increase at a rate of several Mbps. I remember the times of dial-up, where it would take several minutes to get connected to the internet that would work at a speed of ~56kbps.
We’d all patiently wait while listening to the beeping of the router to establish a connection. And now, if we experience even a FEW seconds of delay in the loading of a certain web page, we get extremely restless.
We moved on from handwritten letters to emails, and are now hooked onto instant messaging. There is a messaging service on most social media platforms we use as well.
If we even look at how WhatsApp has adapted itself for the average impatient user — It went from allowing the user check if their message was sent, to now not just checking if the recipient has received the message, but also blue ticks to check if they have read it.
This impatience is not just related to technology. At the end of season 5 of Game of Thrones, when Jon Snow died, and the entire world realised that we’d need to wait an ENTIRE YEAR to know the fate of our beloved character, all of us across the world collectively lost our minds.
GoT — Frustrating watchers since eternity
To deal with the average impatient user, companies are constantly adapting themselves.
The best example of this would be Amazon. To distinguish themselves from all their competitors, they launched ‘Prime’ as a service very early in the game.
This paid service allowed their customers to get certain products delivered the very next day. Domino’s Pizza did this too with their ‘30 minute or free’ delivery scheme.
So when businesses are adapting themselves to cater to users who want to be serviced NOW, us designers need to do the same.
1. Equip with all possible information
A strategy employed by several streaming services like Netflix, Prime etc. is to premiere an entire season at the same time. This allows their users to watch all episodes one after the other, without having to wait a week or two.
To provide a seamless experience to our users, and allow them to make quicker decisions, we need to help them with all the content they might need. Very often designers tend to hide content in order to maintain the aesthetic of their design. We should abstain from omitting information that would influence user decisions or choices.
Pro tip — To organise information better, we can opt to use design components like accordions that open/close to show/hide information, or even a pop over component that could show up on hover.
2. Never lengthen a straight-forward flow
Most applications have worked to expedite their sign-up processes by allowing their users to sign up using either Google or Facebook. This allows the users to skip filling out long forms, and begin their journey simply after one click.
On the contrary, if while trying to onboard a user, the first experience they are asked to go through is a long journey; there is a good chance that they’d drop mid-way.
As designers, it is essential to remember that even a small glimpse of long journey will scare our users away. We should aim to keep ALL our journeys concise by asking the user to fill out only the necessary information, and skipping through all optional data fields.
Pro-tip — If shortening a flow is not feasible, we should look to break it down into steps that can be consumed by our users more easily.
3. Avoid heavy-duty components
Any website that takes more than several seconds to load is deemed unreasonably slow.
‘Lite’ versions of applications like Facebook and Twitter were created so that even users browsing on devices that have low bandwidth could use them seamlessly without waiting for what seems like a long loading time.
Since businesses are now moving towards optimising entire applications to reduce the data they consume, us designers should also try and do the same.
While creating the final visuals for your digital platform, it is extremely important to remember to optimise them. High fidelity images and videos take much longer to load, and thus become less impactful. No one will wait for that beautiful banner you designed to appear fully on the landing page before proceeding with the intended journey.
Pro-tip — It is also a good idea to include smaller micro-interactions instead of full-blown animations. A GIF will always play better than a heavy video.