The Dark Secret of Online Loading Bars


Everyone loves an authentic interaction. That’s probably one of the reasons why we prefer to talk to a real person over the phone, instead of an automated robot (other reason: PHONE ROBOTS ARE FRUSTRATING AS HELL).

We spend a lot of our time on the phone or computer where it’s common to see “loading” bars, timers, and other progress bars as we do stuff. But really, these may be illusions that help us feel better, according to BBC Future.

It turns out these progress bars, timers, or “rainbows of death” are just there to make us feel as if our waiting will be worthwhile. They give the impression that something is happening, even though there may be other reasons for the delay.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Research shows that we prefer knowing that something is being done behind the scenes, even if we obtain the same product or service in the end. One study showed that diners were likely to rate a restaurant 22% higher if they can see their food as it’s being prepared.

In the same vein, we enjoy the internet more if we see indicators that web sites are trying harder to give us what we need. One finding showed that people believed a search engine to be of better quality if they made their processes more transparent to the user.

So, progress bars may be (also may not, it depends on the bar) fibbing to us about the amount of “work” being done on our behalf. Vendors, search engines, and other web services often only add them because they understand human nature – and they want us to rate their services higher.

What do you think of progress bars? Do they frustrate or make you feel better? Comment below with your thoughts.