When Slower is Better for UX


Designers have heard for years that faster is better. Almost every post on web speed reminds readers that 47% of users expect web pages to load in two seconds or less, and each additional fraction of a second leads to higher abandon rates.

The fear is that slow loading might make users think a brand is untrustworthy or outdated. It seems like if every interaction isn’t designed to be blazing fast, it might as well not be designed at all. However, that isn’t always true. Learn the situations in which slower UX actually improves user engagement and builds trust.

Slow Can Mean Security

While in most situations, users equate page speed with trustworthiness, there are some situations in which an extremely fast response makes users question if the software accessed all available data.

When a user previously had to spend hours talking to multiple credit bureaus and wait for mailed reports and now can get results in seconds, they might wonder if the results are accurate. Sometimes speed results in mistakes or missing data, and in situations where accuracy is paramount, users are willing to wait a few extra seconds for thorough results.

When people go to an airport, they don’t want the Transportation Security Administration to speed everyone through inspection. While lines and waits are never a pleasant part of the experience, travelers feel safe knowing experts are making sure they are getting on an airplane safely.

It’s often the same with sensitive financial information. TurboTax intentionally slowed down return processing to make users feel they were being extra thorough. They added an animation that looked like a loading bar so users felt like the software was busily going back over every bit of the data to make sure there were no errors and they were receiving their maximum return.

Slow and Social Media

Facebook recently added a friendly robot that performs random security checks. The robot notifies the user that they’re about to look into the security of their account and takes between five and 10 seconds to complete his checkup. While the scan could be completed in milliseconds, when it takes longer the user feels as if the robot is performing a comprehensive exam.

One Facebook spokesperson said the company intentionally slowed the process because a faster response time may make users believe the function is simple. More than 1 billion people use Facebook. If half of them wait five seconds while the robot scans their accounts, they lose a total of 28,935 days to slower UX. Facebook feels that’s a small price to pay to educate users on the steps they take to keep their accounts secure.

Financial Institutions and Slow Speed

Security is a critical element of UX Design. Many banks and lenders are purposely creating slowdowns within their websites and mobile apps to point out how they prioritize their user’s security. One recent change has to do with banking and retinal scanners.

Previously, users had to input a password every time they wanted to access their account information. Passwords were vulnerable to security breaches, could be hard to remember, and often took too long to input, especially on small mobile device screens. Big banks have started routinely using fingerprints, facial recognition and retinal scans to increase security.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase all allow users to access accounts using their fingerprint on mobile devices. Citigroup verifies users through voice recognition. Smaller banks will follow the trend as more devices become equipped with the required technology.

While biometrics adds an additional layer of security and is faster than inputting a password, many banks realize speed creates the potential for mistrust. Wells Fargo intentionally slowed down the retinal scanners in its app. While the app was capable of completing the scan in a fraction of a second, when it worked that quickly customers didn’t realize it happened in the first place.

Wells Fargo slowed down eye scan technology by a few seconds and notified the user it was happening to increase trust. Mortgage suppliers, travel pages and sites that perform security checks are all increasing wait times to help users feel more secure.

When users apply for a mortgage, they input large amounts of personal information hoping to qualify for a significant loan. If users learn they are approved as soon as they hit the submit button, they may feel as though it was too easy and that there might have been a mistake. Lenders often incorporate a few second delay so customers feel more secure with their results.

When to Intentionally Slow Speed

Designers slow the experience when they want to emphasize what’s going on behind the scenes. They also might enhance trust by slowing the experience when users furnish any of the following personal information:

  • Phone number
  • Home address
  • Social security number
  • Buying preferences
  • Account or credit card information

Slow speeds can indicate quality to the user. If you sit down at an expensive restaurant and receive your meal almost immediately after ordering, you’re likely to suspect the food wasn’t prepared fresh and the kitchen does not hold to high standards. Artificial waiting patterns like fake status bars that take time to load, or animation that shows thoughtful processing makes users feel they’re getting the best quality.

Any time a user performs a detailed search, slower load times might be appropriate. For example, when users view real estate listings, an advanced search might involve how much they’re willing to pay, whether they’re pre-qualified, their preferences for neighborhood and school district and other data. When people are searching for a home, they feel a reputable brokerage will be thorough. Receiving results too quickly might mean the app missed homes that may interest them.

Let Users Know What’s Happening

It’s not enough to simply add a delay when using slower speeds to enhance UX. With so many inconsistencies between products, websites and connection speed, users can’t tell if a site is being extra cautious with their personal information or if the site simply stopped working.

When you optimize pages for speed, let customers know how you’ve enhanced their experience. If you cause elements to load slowly to emphasize security, educate users on the steps you’re taking to keep them safe.

Intentional Speed Bumps

Sometimes organizations slow experiences to create trust. In other situations, businesses make goals harder to achieve because they want to prevent users from ever reaching them. If customers want to withdraw from a membership, empty everything out of their cart or unsubscribe to a recurring service, some businesses do the following to make it more difficult to leave.

Slowing a user down when they’re trying to reach a goal might be enough to convince them to stay, but it can also backfire. If users feel your site is confusing or difficult to use, they may be unlikely to return. Use intentional speed bumps sparingly and only when they won’t cost long-term customer relationships.

In most cases, optimization for speed is extremely important. Designers must evaluate speed on a case-by-case basis, but each site must be fast enough to be usable for visitors.

Slowing down processes is currently effective for highlighting quality and security, but that will not always be true. As technology speeds up and consumers become more educated on its capabilities, users will eventually require that all experiences be seamless. Designers who continually seek to match user expectations will adjust experiences to each situation.


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