Kill The Loading GIF

Seen this lately?

loading_spinner

 

I’ll bet you have – and the hundreds of other variations of the ubiquitous, LOADING, PLEASE WAIT gif or whatever – you know that thing designers throw in when they realize that their page is taking too long to load?

The thing that I don’t get is that if you ask me, we are seeing way more of these that we should. Not only that, we are seeing MORE now than we ever have before! If our network speeds keep going up, why do our pages keep slowing down?

When I first started out on the internet, using a trusty dial up to get on, we could live with a few seconds delay when we logged on. For one company I worked for, we got a fully graphical home page which, gasp, clocked in at 50K, and it took what we thought was forever to load.

Fast forward to today: we have fiber to the home, upwards of 25Mb to most homes, and if you actually clock the real time from click to page or app load, its worse than a few seconds, placated by a loading gif. Why is that?

As processing speeds and network throughput speeds have increased, we’ve kept pace by making our web sites and apps slower and slower, burdening the user with having to wait and wait. Even the normally snappy Google home page has now added junk, in the guise of Google+ notifications, an apps grid, and other stuff which most probably don’t need. Reminds me a bit of the days where Microsoft would release versions of Windows which would slow existing computers which were upgraded because they were targeting the next generation of hardware – I think they learned that lesson with Vista.

If you ask me, the web and apps should be loading faster, not slower. We should be seeing LESS of the loading gif, and not more.

I get that as technologies move forward we need to use the latest and great tools to provide the absolute best experiences. But we should also look to the overall speed experience, from click to run, and I’m not talking just adding in loading gifs when the pages slow down. I mean, figure out what is slowing you down and unless its key to the whole experience, junk it.

This is also an unfortunate side effect of the API economy, where a lot of what you are doing depends on some API or another to work. For example, I just switched thinkfuture.com over to Livefyre, and even though I feel its a better experience, my comment load time has slowed down.

We are going in the wrong direction. We are slowing down our sites and apps at a faster rate than the speeds that the networks and devices are accelerating. We’ve got to make it a focus to turn this around, to retire the loading gif for good. So let’s do it.

2 comments
MDarnell
MDarnell

The loading graphic provides feedback that something is happening and provides a measurable perceived loading time to things that can take a while to load. Sometimes we have to work with large data sets to provide useful functionality to our end users and it simply takes time to process everything. Sometimes it's not feasible to spend millions of dollars re-architecting something to save a few seconds of load time. There are still billions of people that don't have what many of us would consider average internet speeds, were all not cruising fiber networks.

thinkfuture
thinkfuture moderator

One more thing I forgot to mention - loading screens in video games are getting epically long as well - if these boxes are soooo powerful, why does it take 2 minutes to load a level?