Paper of the Month: Rethinking the Progress Bar
August 9, 2009
This is the second post in my series about worthwhile, freely available academic papers with practical relevance for application design.
Here you go:
Harrison, C., Amento, B., Kuznetsov, S., Bell, R. (2007) Rethinking the Progress Bar. Proceedings of the 20th Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology. Newport, Rhode Island, USA, 7th-10th October 2007, New York, NY: ACM, pp. 115-118.
Why you should read it
Status indicators, such as progress bars, are frequently used to give users feedback about the time it takes for a process to finish. This could be something as simple as a standard preloader for Flash applications or a more complex progress bar to monitor backend and multi-stage processes in Rich Internet Applications. When displaying percentage completed, animation can provide meaningful information and in some situations cheating techniques can be used to convey the impression that progress bars appear faster. The paper tells you when it is appropriate to apply non-linear functions (for example “Fast Power” functions) to map progress to its visual representation more effectively and to be perceived faster by users. Interesting read (and only 4 pages).