I used the LinkedIn iPhone app the other day to download my connections to my iPhone address book. Immediately upon starting the download, I was greeted with a familiar foe: the dreaded progress bar. Yep, the empty rectangle that never seems to give you an real indication of how long the current process is actually going to take.
We’ve become accustomed to the progress bar over the years, but I constantly wonder how the experience could be improved for end users. Granted, it only lasted about 30 - 60 seconds in this example, but why must I be subjected to such a stellar waste of time?
Before I go any further, I want to be clear that LinkedIn was only selected because of the recency and fact that it got me thinking about this subject again. As you already know, this “problem” if you will, spans way beyond any one particular app or web culprit.
I mean, move the progress bar out of focus and show me SOMETHING of value—whether it be of the entertainment or informative variety. Because almost anything would be better than looking at a progress indicator that more often than not doesn’t provide an accurate measure of progress (anyone who has sat and watched a software installation spend 50% of the total time showing 99% progress knows exactly what I mean).
To LinkedIn’s credit, shortly after my poor experience with the main app, I downloaded their new contact management app, LinkedIn Contacts. Instead of a progress bar hogging up the entire screen, this time I was greeted by a moderately helpful tour of the app. As you’ll see below, the progress bar was still visible, but it was no longer the only thing in view.
(Bonus points if you noticed the state of the progress meter in this screenshot)
We can only hope that LinkedIn Contacts represents the beginning of a broader shift away from traditional thinking around progress bars, but that remains to be seen.
So, from all of us sick and tired of a lack of progress to anyone who crafts experiences for software, we plea to you: please make progress bars suck less.