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Perception of Time in User Experience Research

The Problem

GN ReSound had implemented 2.4 GHz technology used to connect the hearing instruments with a desktop application to adjust settings for patients’ hearing instruments. The advantages of this technology were that it allowed the audiologist to adjust settings of a hearing instrument without having to remove the instruments from the patient’s ears or connect bulky (and often awkward) cables or gear to the patient. However, the disadvantage was the connection interface within the desktop app was perceived as being slow. This was the result of two issues – the codebase (it actually was slow in benchmark testing with competitors) and the perceived speed (the interface design, itself, was not optimized making it seem slower than it actually was). Our team partnered with internal developers to conduct research surrounding how speed can be affected through interface design.

Project Details

Client GN ReSound
Date March 2014
Skills Basic Research to include a review of the literature, analysis of results and integration of key research findings for presentation

The Solution

I conducted an in-depth literature review using a unique search strategy where subject headings and keyword searches were both used. Subject headings aided in locating those sources already indexed within article databases while keyword searching aided in locating more recent sources that had not yet been indexed. In addition, the bibliographies of selected or pertinent sources were mined in an effort to locate related articles. Reverse citation searches were also completed to locate additional pertinent sources. This strategy enabled a maximum return on the search garnering the greatest number of sources possible.

I then compiled the results of the literature review, ranking the recommendations and forming a cohesive body of research on the topic. Ranking the results involved understanding which recommendations would have the greatest impact on user experience per our current software problems.


This research culminated in a series of presentations to key stakeholders and developers to educate them in the psychology of time. Presentations were given on several occasions using Powerpoint in public speaking venues. Additionally, several write-ups were produced while working the research into an internal style guide.

Our team has worked to leverage this research through the integration of key principles into the design on numerous software releases.

Articles Authored on this Topic

Progress Bars & Time Indicators: UX Design Best Practice

It is inevitable the user will have to wait at some point in time for a process to complete or a page to load. Perhaps in the future we’ll have instantaneous response in systems. But as of the writing of this article, load times, data retrieval, installations and downloads all take between a few and hundreds of seconds. So how and when should this be represented so the user knows the system is working and not frozen? The answer to this will depend on how long our user will wait and what our ultimate goal is. Read More…

3 Techniques to Induce User Flow & Decrease the Perceived Duration of Time in Software Interfaces

The comedian, Louis CK, has a famous routine where he talks about how quickly our amazement with technology turns to impatience – or, how quickly we take a new convenient technology for granted. In part of this routine, he speaks of a plane trip where the plane offered free WI-FI – something that was not previously available on a flight. In mid-flight, technology difficulties make it unavailable and the person next to Louis begins grumbling about how this is bullshit. He makes light of this person’s complaints by underscoring how amazing it is to be able to use the internet on a plane in the first and how quickly we take something for granted. Time is often like this for us. What was once an acceptable wait becomes excruciating as we get used to a new level of technology. Read More…

Placebo Buttons, Misleading Users & the Ethics of UX Design

There exist controls commonly referred to as placebo buttons. In the case of pedestrian walk signs, many of them were created prior to electronic traffic controls and signals and thus they no longer work. Some cities simply have not removed them. Many office thermostats are placebo controls placed to quell the cubicle masses, but not actually allow them to adjust temperatures. These devices give the user a sense of control, which seems to ease human anxiety in situations where they must wait for more than 5 seconds. Read More…

Seven Rules to Manage User Wait Times

Waiting can be excruciating for us humans. And, we spend a good majority of our lives in this very act. But, there are ways to alleviate “the torture” and create a better experience for our users. In general, I have found there are 7 primary rules to managing user wait time. Put another way, there are 7 concepts you should never violate if your users have to wait in a line, on a process or on an interface. Read More…

The Psychology of Waiting and User Perception of Time

We have something of an issue with our software at my current place of employment. It is perceived as being slow – though not necessarily slow given what it accomplishes for the end-user. There are different issues in terms of software speed – actual measure speed and speed perception. Read More…

Don’t Make Me Wait! Presentation & Resources

A list of resources on the topic of the user experience of time and our perception of time. These are resources I found helpful in compiling the perception of time presentation. In addition, many of the resources are rife with citations and sources of their own if you care to mine the bibliographies. Read More…