in Consultancy, Online Marketing, Social media, Uncategorized

One of Facebook’s Secrets: Make your users wait (?!)

When you run the Facebook security checkup app, you have to wait for a while to get the results. But you don’t mind waiting because you think Facebook is doing a thorough check and will give you accurate results. Have you ever wondered if Facebook servers really take this long to pull the results? The answer is likely “no”.

You may be surprised to know that Facebook deliberately slows down the display of results so that the users assume it is really working hard to get them! A majority of users trust this new tool thinking that Facebook is taking very good care of them.

In reality, Facebook servers analyze your data in milliseconds but the user interface is so designed that the display of those results takes longer to load. Simply put, there is a timer that delays the display of the results. Facebook does this to make its users “feel safe”. Survey shows that people generally prefer to wait for results if they feel they will be more accurate.

A spokesperson from Facebook confirms, “While our systems perform these checks at a much faster speed than people can actually see, it’s important that they understand what we do behind the scenes to protect their Facebook account.”

“UX can be a powerful education tool and walking people through this process at a slower speed allows us to provide a better explanation and an opportunity for people to review and understand each step along the way.”  

Facebook has over 1.5 billion monthly active users and even if 50 percent of them go for this security check, each waiting for 5 seconds more to get the results, think how much collective time is lost. It will be 1,041,667 hours or 43,402 days or 119 years!!

Facebook is not the only one doing this. Companies know that perceived performance can be more important than actual performance. The speed of websites and apps is much faster these days but sometimes fast speeds can make users confused or skeptical. Many companies are realizing this and are deliberately building slower interfaces.

Wells Fargo, a banking and financial services company in the US, is one such company. They have slowed down the retinal scanners of their app because they were so fast many wondered if they actually worked. Human brains are not used to such fast speeds and expect to wait a little longer. Technology is sprinting ahead at a faster speed but people’s minds have not caught up with it yet.  

Various online services such as financial services, security checks, mortgage services, gaming and travel sites are purposely slowing down their user interfaces which they feel will improve user experience.  

Braden Kowitz, design partner at Google Ventures agrees saying,”Let’s say you sit down at a restaurant, you order your food, and it comes out one minute later. Is that a good thing? You start to wonder, ‘What’s going on here? Is something wrong in the kitchen?’”

Here then comes the artificial waiting period which companies add into their interfaces in the form of status bar and/or update messages designed to make people think that some hard, thoughtful work is going on behind the screen even though the actual result may already be ready.   

As Kowitz puts it, “If we break customers’ expectations, the interface stops working. That can happen if the Internet is moving too slowly. And in some cases, it can actually happen if the interface is moving too fast.”

If users expect a particular thing to take a certain period of time, then breaking their expectations by giving instant results can many times be counterproductive. Instead, if you indulge your users and increase the loading time artificially to match their expectations, they will be happy and satisfied that the company is taking efforts. People don’t mind waiting if they think it is in their own interest.

Eventually over time, people’s expectations will grow and catch up with technology, and then this artificial waiting may not be needed.