How operational transparency is changing the waiting game

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No one likes to wait. Whether it is standing in a queue waiting to collect a parcel or sitting on the tarmac waiting for your plane to takeoff. Waiting is frustrating.

Waiting can also be costly, especially for companies with impatient customers.

Just as slow moving queues at the checkout counters can lead shoppers to abandon their trolleys in the supermarket, slow loading websites can lead visitors to give up too.

But whereas most of us will wait a few minutes to be served in the real world, on the web our tolerance for delays can be measured in microseconds. Time online is perceived differently.

And most of the time this works just fine. Google serves search results almost instantly. Instagram plays stories immediately. Spotify streams music without delay.

We have been trained by the tech giants to be intolerant of waiting and so smaller companies have to match these standards to compete – which is why at Hotfoot we have invested so much time and resource to ensuring our clients’ websites load rapidly.

But sometimes delays are impossible to avoid – as the popular American travel comparison website Kayak discovered a few years ago.

As Kayak queries prices in real time from a number of different sources it could not display the results instantly – leading a significant proportion of frustrated visitors to exit the page before it loaded.

So they tried a different approach.

“Instead of a progress bar, Kayak designed an animation that showed the user not only what percentage of the job had been completed, but exactly what the search algorithm was doing as it was doing it,” explains Roman Mars in a recent episode of the podcast 99% Invisible.

“Users could see all the work that Kayak was doing, and they could imagine that if they tried to check every single one of those airlines on their own individual site, it would take forever.”

This kind of operational transparency is now everywhere – whether it is watching your Uber make its way to your location, viewing updates to your Dominos pizza, or checking the status of your Amazon delivery.


A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post.

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