IT Progress Indicators: Sense of Progress, Subjective Sense of Time, User Preference and the Perception of Process Duration

IT Progress Indicators: Sense of Progress, Subjective Sense of Time, User Preference and the Perception of Process Duration

T. S. Amer (The W. A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA) and Todd L. Johnson (The W. A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/ijthi.2014070105

Abstract

Users of information technology (IT) often encounter “progress indicators” during their interactions. These graphics (e.g., progress bars) appear on computing screens as users wait for a task to complete. The purpose of progress indicators is to inform users of the progress being made to complete a task. This study employs two theoretical models from psychological research on human waiting to develop specific hypotheses related to the design of progress indicators: the sense-of-progress and the subjective-sense-of-time frameworks. The results of three experiments indicate that progress indicators exhibiting key characteristics from these frameworks influence user experiences. Experiment 1 revealed that participants preferred a linear progress bar to a cycling progress bar. Experiment 2 revealed that participants preferred a video progress indicator to a cycling progress bar, and judged the process duration to be shorter with the video progress indicator. Experiment 3 revealed that the video progress indicator yielded the best user experience.
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Introduction

Users of information technology (IT) often encounter “progress indicators” during their interactions. Progress indicators are graphics that appear on the computer screen as a user waits to complete a task, such as downloading a file, saving a file, or updating software. The purpose of progress indicators is to inform the user of the progress that is being made as the task moves toward completion. Progress indicators can take different forms, such as a spinning disk, a bar that moves across the screen, or a textual message (for example, “26% completed”) (Conrad, Couper, Tourangeau, & Peytchev, 2010; Cooper & Reiman, 2003; Galitz, 2007; Shniederman, Plaisant, Cohen, & Jacobs, 2009). Because they are common features in IT environments, it is important to understand the appropriate form, content, and movement patterns of progress indicators to maximize the quality of the user experience and effectiveness of their interactions (Shniederman et al., 2009; Villar, Callegaro, & Yang, 2013). This study applies theoretical models from psychology and reports experimental data to better understand the impact of progress-indicator design on the user experience.

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