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Designing and Engineering Time: The Psychology of Time Perception in Software

Book Description

Build Applications, Websites, and Software Solutions that Feel Faster, More Efficient, and More Considerate of Users’ Time!

One hidden factor powerfully influences the way users react to your software, hardware, User Interfaces (UI), or web applications: how those systems utilize users’ time. Now, drawing on the nearly 40 years of human computer interaction research–including his own pioneering work–Dr. Steven Seow presents state-of-the-art best practices for reflecting users’ subjective perceptions of time in your applications and hardware.

Seow begins by introducing a simple model that explains how users perceive and expend time as they interact with technology. He offers specific guidance and recommendations related to several key aspects of time and timing–including user tolerance, system responsiveness, progress indicators, completion time estimates, and more. Finally, he brings together proven techniques for impacting users’ perception of time drawn from multiple disciplines and industries, ranging from psychology to retail, animal research to entertainment.

     •    Discover how time and timing powerfully impact user perception, emotions, and behavior

     •    Systematically make your applications more considerate of users’ time

     •    Avoid common mistakes that consistently frustrate or infuriate users

     •    Manage user perceptions and tolerance, and build systems that are perceived as faster

     •    Optimize “flow” to make users feel more productive, empowered, and creative

     •    Make reasonable and informed tradeoffs that maximize limited development resources

     •    Learn how to test usability issues related to time–including actual vs. perceived task duration

Designing and Engineering Time is for every technology developer, designer, engineer, architect, usability specialist, manager, and marketer. Using its insights and techniques, technical and non-technical professionals can work together to build systems and applications that provide far more value–and create much happier users.

Steven C. Seow has a unique combination of experience in both experimental psychology and software usability. He joined Microsoft as a User Researcher after completing his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at Brown University with a research focus on human timing and information theory models of human performance. Seow holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and wrote his master’s thesis on distortions in time perception. For more information about Steven Seow and his research, visit his website at www.StevenSeow.com.

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Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
    1. Dedication
  2. Praise for Designing and Engineering Time
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. About the Author
  5. Preface
  6. 1. Designing and Engineering Time
    1. Sounds Familiar?
    2. The Funny Thing about Time
    3. Can Time Be Engineered?
    4. Why Design and Engineer Time?
      1. Unlike Money, Time Is Variable
      2. Perception Drives Everything
    5. Who Is the Time Engineer?
    6. About This Book
      1. Organization of Chapters
        1. Chapter 2, “Perception and Tolerance”
        2. Chapter 3, “User and system response times”
        3. Chapter 4, “Responsiveness”
        4. Chapter 5, “Detecting Timing Differences”
        5. Chapter 6, “Progress Indication”
        6. Chapter 7, “Expressing Time”
        7. Chapter 8, “User Flow”
        8. Chapter 9, “Testing Time”
        9. Chapter 10, “Techniques”
        10. Chapter 11, “Violations”
      2. Vocabulary
        1. Solution
        2. Process
        3. User
      3. Painting a Thousand Words
      4. Going Down the Rabbit Hole
    7. Rabbit Hole
      1. Classic Psychological Experiments Involving Time
      2. Seminal Papers on Time Perception
      3. Scientific Study and Manipulation of Objective Time
      4. Books on Time
      5. Time and Money
      6. Time Perception and Productivity
      7. Time Perception and Satisfaction
      8. Time Perception and Software Use
      9. Rabbit Holes
  7. 2. Perception and Tolerance
    1. Perception and Tolerance
      1. Real or Perceived?
    2. Reality: Actual Time
      1. Precision: Objective Time from Objective Measures
      2. Data: Volume, Variability, Variety
    3. Perception: Psychological Time
      1. Subjectivity: Do You See What I See?
      2. Distortion: Do Not Trust Your Brain
    4. Tolerance: Valued Time
      1. Quantity Versus Quality
      2. The Mental Benchmark
      3. Time-Related Factors Affecting Tolerance
        1. Usage and Experience
        2. Standards and Benchmarks
        3. Comparative References
        4. Indications on User Interface
      4. Nontime-Related Factors Affecting Tolerance
        1. Attempts, Repeated Failures
        2. Time of the Day, Day of the Week
        3. Emotive States
        4. Bias
        5. Culture, Trends, Fads
    5. Summary
    6. Rabbit Hole
      1. Perception Management
      2. Perceived Time
      3. Classic Experiments on Memory
      4. User Tolerance
  8. 3. User and System Response Times
    1. The Silicon-Carbon Conversation
      1. Defining Response Time
      2. The Conversation
    2. User Response Times
      1. Speed-Accuracy Tradeoff
    3. System Response Time
      1. Industry Standards for System Response Times
        1. Miller (1968)
        2. MIL-STD 1472
        3. ESD/MITRE
        4. TAFIM
    4. Summary
    5. Rabbit Hole
      1. Human Response Times
      2. System Response Time
      3. Speed-Accuracy Tradeoff
      4. Hick-Hyman Law and Fitts’ Law
      5. Industry Standards
  9. 4. Responsiveness
    1. What Is Responsiveness?
      1. Responsiveness Is Relative to the Interaction
      2. A Delay Is Subjectively Perceived
      3. Body Language Counts As a Response
    2. Responsiveness Based on User Expectancy
      1. Instantaneous: 0.1 to 0.2 Second
      2. Immediate: 0.5 to One Second
      3. Continuous: Two to Five Seconds
      4. Captive: Seven to Ten Seconds
    3. Too Fast?
      1. Computer Too Fast
      2. User Too Fast
    4. Summary
    5. Rabbit Hole
      1. Microexpressions
      2. User-Centric Responsiveness
      3. User Flow
      4. Attention Span
  10. 5. Detecting Timing Differences
    1. Telling the Difference
      1. D Levels
    2. D1: Weber’s Law
      1. The 20% Rule
        1. Setting Performance Goals
        2. Finding Regression Allowance
    3. D2: Geometric Mean Bisection
      1. The Not-by-Much Standard
        1. Diffusing Differentiation by Neutralization
        2. Maintaining Differentiation
        3. Questionable Differentiation
    4. Summary
    5. Rabbit Hole
      1. Timing Differences
      2. Weber’s Law
      3. Differentiation
      4. Geometric Mean Bisection
  11. 6. Progress Indication
    1. Silicon Faux Pas
    2. Classifying Your Progress Indication
      1. Choosing the Right Class
    3. Designing Your Progress Indication
      1. Display Modality: Textual or Visual
        1. Use Textual When
        2. Use Visual When
      2. Progress Unit: Time or Work
        1. Use Time Units When
        2. Use Work Units When
      3. Data Type: Quantitative or Qualitative
        1. Use Quantitative Data When
        2. Use Qualitative Data When
    4. Summary
    5. Rabbit Hole
      1. Progress Indications
      2. Time-Fluctuation Phenomenon
      3. Progressive Disclosure
  12. 7. Expressing Time
    1. The Timing of Time: Past, Present, Future
      1. Prospective: Tickle-Me-Elmo
        1. Report Time Prospectively When
      2. Real Time: Scratch-and-Sniff
        1. Report Time in Real Time When
      3. Retrospective: Worst Episode Ever!
        1. Report Time Retrospectively When
    2. Talking Time
      1. Time Anchors
      2. Time Anchor Matrix
      3. Talking Time
        1. Ranges: Between X and Y
        2. Limits: Less Than or More Than X
        3. Remaining Time: Z, Y, X...
    3. Couple of Whiles
      1. 1. Give Non-temporal Information
      2. 2. Timers and Timeout
    4. Time Grammar and Etiquette
      1. 1. Singularize Singular Units
      2. 2. Zero Means Finished!
      3. 3. Express Time Units Consistently
      4. 4. Between X and Y
      5. 5. Avoid Ambiguous Phrases
    5. Summary
    6. Rabbit Hole
      1. Prospective Versus Retrospective Time
      2. Underestimation and Overestimation of Prospective Time
      3. Writing Styles
      4. Anchors and Estimation of Time
  13. 8. User Flow
    1. What Is User Flow?
      1. User Flow as a Map
      2. User Flow as a Path
      3. User Flow as an Experience
    2. Optimizing User Flow
      1. 1. Challenge-Skills Matching
        1. What Can You Do?
      2. 2. Goals and Feedback
      3. 3. Sense of Control
        1. What Can You Do?
    3. Summary
    4. Rabbit Hole
      1. Psychology of Flow
      2. User Flow in HCI
      3. User Flow and Web Users
      4. Reading Speed
  14. 9. Testing Time
    1. Putting Time to the Test
    2. Collecting Reliable and Valid Data
    3. Clocking Actual Durations
      1. Define Actual Duration Carefully
      2. Choose the Right Precision
      3. Choose the Right Method
      4. Do Not Use Your Users as Clocks!
    4. Measuring Perceived Duration
      1. Verbal Estimation
      2. Reproduction
      3. Adjustment
    5. Assessing Tolerance
      1. Responsiveness Expectation
      2. Experimentation
      3. Production
      4. Cross-Modality Matching
    6. Experimental Design Considerations
      1. Order Effects: Which Came First?
      2. Exposure and Practice Effects
      3. Keep the Cat in the Bag!
    7. Summary
    8. Rabbit Hole
      1. Testing Methodologies
      2. Human Estimations of Time
      3. Instrument Limitations
  15. 10. Techniques
    1. Perception Management
      1. Preemptive Start
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      2. Early Completion
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      3. Invisible Deconstruction
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      4. Descending Durations
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      5. Nonlinear Progress Indication
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      6. Continuous Durations
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      7. Information
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      8. Meaningful Diversion
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      9. Fire-and-Forget
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
    2. Tolerance Management
      1. Underpromise, Overdeliver
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      2. The Priceline Model
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      3. Time Anchors
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      4. Worth the Wait
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      5. Buffer and Offer
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      6. First-Time, One-Time Only
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      7. Contextualized Benchmarks
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
      8. End on Time
        1. How and Why It Works
        2. Keeping in Mind
    3. Summary
    4. Rabbit Hole
      1. Website-Related Studies
      2. Waiting and Customer Satisfaction
      3. Research and Techniques in the Consumer and Retail Worlds
  16. 11. Violations
    1. Perceptual Violations
      1. Watching the Kettle
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      2. Captive Waits
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      3. Negative Appraisal
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      4. Elapsed Time
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      5. Barnabus Effect
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      6. Information Overload
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      7. Fragmented Durations
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      8. Anxiety
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
    2. Tolerance Violations
      1. Uncertainty
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      2. Broken Promises
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      3. Cable Company Commitment
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      4. Overprecision
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      5. Loop Confirmation
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      6. Surprise Supplement
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
      7. Delayed Consumption
        1. How and Why It Violates
        2. Keeping in Mind
    3. Summary
    4. Rabbit Hole
      1. Underestimations and Overestimations
      2. Waiting and Customer Satisfaction