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Loading... Updating... Perpetually...

Brian M. [PersonRank 10]

Saturday, January 14, 2006
17 years ago

The busses in my city all have GPS transponders that report their position back to As part of their service, NextBus provides our bus stops with scrolling digital marquee signs that update asynchronously, showing predicted times for the busses next arrival at that stop. Unfortunately, these signs almost never work. They are perpetually "Updating...". In fact, they are Updating... even when it is clear that something is wrong and they are broken. But we are given no indication of this, and thusly the signs are practicaly worthless.

I have also found this unfortunate usability disaster with another asynchronous technology: Google Reader. Frequently I will open Google Reader and it will be "Loading..." for minutes on end. In fact, forever. It becomes frustratingly obvious that something is wrong with the service, but instead of a useful message, I am mislead into believing that I should continue waiting and being patient.

This is a blatant perceptual lie. The service is not in fact "Loading..." or "Updating...". It is Broken... But rather than admit the fact by providing a useful error message, these services would rather save face and claim that they are in fact doing something useful for the customer.

I feel I've spent more than enough time Waiting... for things that are Loading... and Updating... to realize that they are in fact, not.

The ability to create an asynchronous, event-driven interface, if anything, gives the service provider more responsibility and more reasons for giving the user more information. I think most people understand that when an hour glass on their computer turns for several minutes on end, there is a good chance that the software has a bug in it.

Miel [PersonRank 4]

17 years ago #

I totally agree. Really. There's nothing more frustration than having a word with three dots behind it telling you to stay alert.

Updating this text... ;)

mark casey [PersonRank 1]

17 years ago #

Yes, I'm also perplexed by the Google Reader error messages. When it says "loading" all you need to do is click the refresh button and everything will be fine 99% of the time.

The same goes for when you see the red error messages "whoops! an error occurred." Click refresh and it's almost always fine.

/d [PersonRank 1]

17 years ago #

Brain, which city ??

Caleb E [PersonRank 10]

17 years ago #

I agree that it's annoying, but it's pervaded the internet pretty deeply; it's not just google. firefox for instance does that in its tab names.

Brandon B [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

Reminds me of a certain road inside the Texas A&M campus. When I started there in 1997, quite a few of the roads inside campus were reachable via car and open to traffic, with the exception of this one, which had roadblocks and signs reading "Under construction."

Problem is, even 6 years later when I graduated, that road hadn't changed one bit. It was still "Under construction" and blocked off. More roads were more obviously closed, forever, since A&M's campus was aiming to remove pretty much all cars from its enterior (except A&M employees, of course ... grr).

This is a similar perceptual lie. You can't put up roadblocks and an "Under construction" sign, and then just leave the road blocked off for a decade. If you want to close it, at least be honest about it.

So, I feel your pain ...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

17 years ago #

Hmm, that "Under constructions" sign works the same way on websites...

Brian M. [PersonRank 10]

17 years ago #

/d, I'm in Boulder, Co

Pablo Augusto [PersonRank 0]

17 years ago #

Great post

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