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Apr 26

Sometimes it makes sense to delay the loading message

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As soon as people started to get into Ajaxification there was a shout out that we we do not have the throbber in the browser getting all jiggy, so we need a way to tell our users that we are doing stuff.

Quickly, people starting to use “Loading…” messages such as the red message in the top right of Gmail, or the middle potion message in Reader, and then of course the Ajax indicators where we got to feel all Knight Rider and channel Kitt.

Although it is great to tell your users what is going on, I have recently been getting a little frustrated at the loading messages, especially when I see 5 of them on a screen at the same time. This happens when various portals and widgets are asynchronously going after their data.

What often irks me is that the loading message shows up immediately, but for a barely percievable amount of time. It would actually be nicer if nothing appeared there, as the content came in, which seems like, as fast as a normal render process.

Users are used to pages rending as you go down, so if you are pretty sure that your content will come in quickly enough, why bother showing ‘Loading’ for a micro second.

To be safe, you could do some magic that does the following:

  • You start by showing nothing
  • If the content isn’t updated in half a second say, THEN add the “Loading…” message, as it is taking some time to get it

The end result is that most of the time you never see loading, and the user has no idea that content is coming in via Ajax.

DelayLoader

I quickly implemented a JavaScript class that does this for you.

You can see it at delayloadingmessage.

That page shows the delay in Loading… coming in. For many cases it doesn’t make sense, for some it may.

If I just want to wait for a bit of time (in case the content comes in already) I can just:

var delayLoader = new DelayLoader(5); // seconds

or if I want to be smarter and check to see if new content has come in yet:

var delayLoader = new DelayLoader({ contentChecker: function() {
return ($("results").innerHTML == '');} });

13 Responses to “Sometimes it makes sense to delay the loading message”

  1. zproxy Says:

    Exactly otherwise you get the effect of flickering if the task is fast enough :) The same applies for desktop applications where some eager developers set the cursor to be ArrowHourglass (aka loading) as soon as something comes up.

  2. Ben Galbraith Says:

    Actually the key is not a delay, that presents its own set of problems. They key is to fade in the indicator so that really quick loads go unnoticed but longer-lasting latency works. Otherwise, you trade the constant flickering of an indicator for no obvious indicator that anything happened, which is obviously worse.

  3. Glen Lipka Says:

    I think a delay is a good idea. I also think a simple addition would make it even better.

    Change the mouse to “waiting” while the delay is on. So if a transaction is pretty quick, let’s say 1 second or less. The user would see the mouse flick to waiting and then back. This is normal behavior when something is happening.

    PS. re: the CAPTCHA. I use Akismet and it seems to catch everyting pretty well.

  4. Dan Moore Says:

    Great idea. Any plans to add this to the GWT-widgets library and expose its goodness to GWT programmers?

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