This is part of a series looking at John Maeda’s ten Laws of Simplicity.
“Savings in time feels like simplicity.”
Web design gurus have preached this law since the mid-90s. Watch your file sizes! Beware the total site “weight!” they warned. These are still excellent strategies for savings time, though broadband penetration means we don’t have to be quite as militant.
In reality there is still a roundtrip going on, but it happens in the background. And it doesn’t have to return the header graphic, navigation, and other items the user already is seeing. Instead, it returns the smallest amount of information needed, saving time.
Better yet, it feels like we’re saving even more time. With a traditional roundtrip, the screen goes blank for just an instant, but it feels longer. What simplicity really gets down to is perception. If it seems slow, then it can’t be simple.
Taking perception a step further, Ajax developers have added small animations to display during the short wait:
Here’s a whole gallery of them.
Of course, progress bars aren’t new. They existed on Expedia and their ilk well before Ajax was around. Travel sites didn’t invent them, either, as they’ve been a staple of slow desktop operations for years. Heck, maybe old school programmers got the idea from “please take a number” signs at the deli.
In all these cases, we have a glimpse of action. When the end is in sight, the wait seems shorter. The shorter, the simpler.
(What I’ve left out here, for simplicity’s sake, is a whole other side of time savings. Fill in the gaps yourself by considering how online banking has saved us all so much time.)