The Single Most Important Feature for a Successful User Interface.

This feature:

  • made Google a world leader
  • makes video games so enjoyable
  • is why geeks prefer Notepad over MS Word
  • makes using some web apps so frustrating

The feature is : instant response.

In the real world, you touch something and it moves. You don’t have to wait 3 seconds for the universe to calculate the object’s new position. Instant response is what the brain expects. Anytime an application make us wait, it kills the flow state and our enjoyment of the app.

What makes Donkey Kong so fun?
Donkey Kong has it. Does your application?

Think about using a computer for 8 hours every day. Think how long you are just waiting.

  • Waiting for webpages to load.
  • Waiting for your machine to reboot (arrrrgh).
  • Waiting for applications to load (e.g. Photoshop).
  • Compile times.
  • etc.

Take these times and multiply by the millions of times you experience them, and you have a lot of your life wasted. This is stealing your valuable time on this earth.

It’s not even useful waiting, because you don’t know when the wait will finish, so you don’t have time to focus on other activities. In the future all UIs will be instant response. Future People will be shocked and saddened to realize that we had to waste so much time looking at progress bars.

So my main piece of advice, from a lifetime of using and building computer apps is – make it faster.

  • Make it smaller
  • Make it lighter
  • Sacrifice unnecessary functionality
  • Preload when possible.

Give the user instance response. If you can’t do that, then at least give them instant feedback with some kind of front-end animation, and try to accurately indicate how long the user will be waiting.

21 Responses

  1. Jaap Kooiker says:

    You totally hit the spot! I always wondered why I still have to wait while my OS “loads” my programs when I intend to start them. I know they are getting bigger and heavier. But still, the main idea about faster computers is work faster but if we make the programs this heavy, making faster computers has almost no effect and doesn’t make the workflow faster.

  2. Yuri says:

    Though speed is great, as you have rightly noted, the perception of how effectively you are doing something also matters. If it seems slow but takes 5 seconds, you’ll stop doing it. If it seems fast by showing you the progress but it takes 10 seconds, you’ll continue.

    Read the truth of the download time by

  3. michael says:

    # Make it smaller
    # Make it lighter
    # Sacrifice unnecessary functionality

    Hey – apply this to your homepage and loose the flash.

  4. Administrator says:

    michael – good comment!

    For my site I think the flash is justified because
    – the flash elements are actually very low filesize,
    – the pages still load fast: the HTML renders while the swfs are loading
    – this is a ‘for fun’ site – not an application people use day-to-day
    – the flash has a purpose (to showcase my flash abilities)

  5. dirq says:

    I totally agree.

    The issue I run in with is usually internal to the company. The marketing department usually wants hugely massive images all over the place that don’t add value (and might actually confuse people). But they dually want fast pages. Um… What’s up with that?

  6. Bri says:

    I actually have to agree more with Michael than Felix (the Admin). The menu is fine – it’s low CPU load, but lose that animated orange and black thing – UGH! It makes my computer get chunky. Older systems would crawl.

    Your target audience is not just Flash developers with high end $3k computer equipment, it’s also the less fortunate digital photographers who have only $1k to spare on computer equipment because the other $1k went into their camera.

    When flash does something useful and showcases your ability – please demo it. But do so on a page designated for it. Even your splash page has a “Skip Animation” button.

    I realized years ago when Macromedia added actionscript to Flash (around 1998) that it became significantly more CPU intensive. If I open up 15 “light” flash tabs in my browser (read: pages that use small banner flash ads) my computer completely crawls and I have no other choice but to kill some of the tabs no matter how great their content may be.

    Until Adobe gets right what Macromedia bloated, you’ll get this same story over and over again.

  7. Motumboe says:

    Definitely a great post

  8. austin says:

    i would love more quick thinking web apps. state of oregon is the antithesis of this.
    i am almost in tears trying to download the newest business bulletins from them.
    i don’t “hate” the layout but the time wasted if time better spent in the garden!

  9. Garo says:

    what you said is really interesting !
    we loosing to much time… and i personlay think im loosing even more :'(, take aobut 8 minuts to open up my PC… takes around 2 minuts to load up my Photoshop… just by the 2 i use for a minimum of 12 minuts (use photoshop at least twice a day) 12 freakin minuts… this is a WAY to much considering im on my PC everyday… Hmmmm Hmmm

  10. cody lindley says:

    Also, fueled the success of AJAX and the Web 2.0 hype. Damn, did I really just use that term.

  11. […] Leyendo Airtight News he dado con una reflexión acerca de los tiempos de carga que me ha hecho pensar. […]

  12. […] Sin palabras me he quedado cuando he visto Tilt Viewer, una galería de fotografías hecha en Flash, desarrollada por Airtight Interactive. […]

  13. x2creator says:

    thats a great concept. its a shame that there isnt a video player that is as “preloaderific” as your simpleviewer.

    is there?

    does airtight interactive have a video player?

  14. alan says:

    good point. i think it’s referred to as ‘snappiness’ as well. as in: ‘i love how snappy this app is’.

  15. Rick says:

    What are the chances we’ll see instant response in the Flash IDE some day?

  16. George says:

    Greetings, quite good thing, was pleasant to me!

  17. Sergey says:

    Donkey Kong is very original 🙂

  18. mystork says:

    good! iam glad to see you!

  19. Steve says:

    re: Flash and boated websites: My life got so much easier when I started using K-Meleon as my browser. Now every flash element is an optional load. If I want to see it, I click on it and THEN it load.

    Then, this week for fun I loaded Puppy Linux on my laptop. I could not BELIEVE how quickly web pages loaded. It was the closest thing to instantaneous I’d ever seen. Now, if only I can figure out how to get my WiFi connection to work under Puppy Linux, but that’s my problem, not the OS’.

  20. Techimpex says:

    I agree. That is very interesting for using in marketing departments and for marketer as well.

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