How patient are you?

Snail on a computer mouse
4 time-frames every developer should know

Users will navigate away from your website when it takes more than 4 seconds to load. This is a very bold statement that I read somewhere online not too long ago. Although I have little doubts that this is true in some countries, the user’s patience is highly affected by culture, age, demographics and the expectation of the user.

Although I would love to see and read a study that shows these statistics by demographic, an early study by Miller in 1968 gave basic advice on system response times, which are still the recommendation today:

  • 100 milliseconds gives the user the feeling the system is reacting instantaneously. No extra feedback is necessary except to display the result. Users will have the feeling they are directly manipulating the system, and it is not actually the computer doing something.
  • 1 second is about the limit for the user’s flow of thought to stay uninterrupted, but the user will feel the delay. When the system responds within 1 second, you do not need to give additional feedback.
  • 10 seconds is the absolute limit of users being able to keep their attention to the task at hand. Anything slower needs a percent-done indicator as well as a clearly visible way for the user to interrupt the operation, or move it to the background. Also remember that users will need to reorient themselves when the return to the user interface after the operation is complete.

Note that these recommended system response times have not changed in more than 45 years.

1 minute.

The most important time-frame any developer and UX designer should remember is 1 minute. A simple task can never take more than 1 minute to complete, or the user will use another system that can accomplish the same task within that time-frame. Note that we are not talking about the system response time now. A simple task can be considered something as simple as registering as a user or perhaps transferring funds from one bank account to another.

How about you? Is 1 minute too long or just right for you?