if connected

Strategy and analysis about mobile, smartphones, tablets and connected experiences

The only speed that matters is subjective

with 8 comments

Doesn’t matter how fast a gadget or a PC’s components are on paper. All that matters is how fast something feels in use. Examples:

  • Writing a letter on a PC is only faster if the user types faster than handwriting. Give someone an unfamiliar azerty keyboard and the same PC will feel slow.
  • Crashes don’t just lose data, they slow users down even if no data is lost, as users have to re-launch apps or reboot.
  • Same kit can behave at different speed. This laptop shuts down in between 30 seconds and two minutes in Vista. But in Mac OS it takes just 8-10 seconds.
  • iPhone feels fast as it shows a stock image of each application while the app loads. There’s also no hourglass to remind the user that something is happening slowly.
  • Having to slide out the qwerty keyboard on my Windows Mobile TyTn then typing an SMS, takes longer than tapping on the iPhone keypad to send a short SMS.
  • Nintendo DS games automatically remember what stage a player is at; PSP games often don’t. Or on resuming, many PSP games force players to go back to a checkpoint. The gameplay repetition that results makes the PSP feel slow.
  • Downloading a game in the latest PS3 OS software feels faster than it did. Why? It’s now possible to download in the background and for the console to auto-power off when the download finishes. Result: user doesn’t have to sit and wait before being able to turn off power. Download still takes the same length of time.

All users care about is how fast something feels. Not what the hardware specs say.

Written by Ian Fogg

November 10, 2008 at 2:08 am

Posted in Customer experience

Tagged with , , , , ,

8 Responses

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  1. Agreed – but see http://daringfireball.net/2008/11/more_notes_on_notes – Gruber @ Daring Fireball on why looking ready when you aren’t is a bad thing – looking fast vs feeling fast.

    Nick R

    November 10, 2008 at 8:34 am

  2. Another example was an experiment that Erik Naggum performed. People had been complaining about the speed of Emacs (it used to display the string “Garbage collecting…” periodically, as it uses managed storage) and he provided a “new and updated” version, where the only difference was that is no longer printed that message.

    People did indeed perceive it as being faster, because it didn’t tell you it was slow.

    Ingvar

    November 10, 2008 at 8:56 am

  3. Erik Naggum’s experiment sounds interesting. I wonder if that was something Apple’s design team had been aware of when they built the iPhone UI.

    ianfogg

    November 10, 2008 at 1:23 pm

  4. Other things to consider:

    One long wait feels shorter than two short waits of the same total length, because there’s nothing happening to break it up. (So when I boot my EeePC/Debian/Gnome, the delay between logging in and having a working desktop feels more significant than the delay between pressing the power button and logging in.)

    The speed with which computers respond to typing is getting slower. Ask any competent touch-typist.

    RogerBW

    November 11, 2008 at 8:52 pm

  5. The iPhone stock image thing reminds me of a bit in one of Cory Doctorow’s books, where he talks about a PDA-thing that saves a screenshot on shutdown, and displays it on boot.

    It’s used as an example of user perception being more important in some ways than the facts (the device in question boots more slowly but is perceived as being faster).

    Michael Stevens

    November 12, 2008 at 7:18 am

  6. Wasn’t there something in the 1980s where apple tested keyboard shortcuts vs mouse usage, and found that while the keyboard *felt* faster, mouse usage was actually faster?

    (although I’m not convinced by the generality of their result)

    Michael Stevens

    November 12, 2008 at 7:35 am

  7. [...] It worked but the experience felt slow. This matters irrespective of whatever the technical speed tests say (300-600Kbps download when I checked). How fast something feels is what consumers care about. I’ve written about this idea here before in more detail. [...]

  8. [...] speed is rarely enough in those tight moments. And, this is one of those rare situations where subjective speed isn’t [...]


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