Make things obvious

Good interaction design is about keeping things obvious.

Be it restraining complexity. Simplifying the complex. Or making a way forward clearer.

In the cross-gov slack a question was raised about the best way to show users something was being processed. And that the user would have to wait for a while.

The request was long enough that the designer was worried about a user either trying to refresh the page. Or quit the service.

There are many things you can do to give the user reassurance or understanding.

Disabled buttons, spinners, skeleton pages, spinners in buttons, animations, progress bars etc.

But creativity in this situation is your worst enemy.

One thing that seeing your users use your designs shows you is that anything smart doesn’t work.

In isolation things like spinners in buttons can seem like smart solutions.

Surely the thing the user clicked is a great place to give feedback?

But it violates a few things:

  • doesn’t act like a normal button or link
  • user clicks a button and expects a full page refresh so their focus moves away
  • visually a tiny place to explain a complex thing
  • vague whether it is checking the form or submitting the form or the internet is being terrible

In this scenario the best approach is to be obvious. If the user has submitted data. Act as if that is the case and change the page.

If it may take a while while their data is processed. Make that obvious. Tell them. Particularly so if the transaction is serious.

If you need to give them a sense the page isn’t dead. Give them that sense.

Be obvious. Don’t let a user guess. If you’re too smart, you’ll be solving the wrong problem.

Here the effort should be to reassure the user their data has been received and processed. Even if that takes longer than ideal.

Your greatest efforts though should be spent on making your service quicker.

Don't miss an article