This reminds me of something we had at my office about 15 years ago because people were complaining their workstations were slow. In reality, their workstations were just slow machines; standard issue box for most people was a 70MHz Sun SS-5.
So we wrote a perl script that printed out a bunch of platitudes like these, while printing out an ASCII "progress bar." It had some randomly determined sleep() calls in there to make it seem like it was doing something.
My father was an audio engineer/mixer and worked with some big names. He told me a similar story that happened to him later in life when he finally owned his own studio.
There were clients that would always insist on making audio adjustments, for no good reason at all. They were paying to have their music professionally mixed, yet still insisted on making adjustments and changes. Finally my dad and his friend came up with a great solution.
Mind you this was prior to everything being digital, so what they did was they had a massive 24 track. (a really big machine where you can individually adjust the sound of each track) Well what they did was installed a knob that looked just like the other ones in the track, but placed it a bit lower and near to where the client would be sitting.
The client was then told they can adjust the "openness", or the "richness" by adjusting this rotating knob to a particular setting (remember, the knob does nothing, and isn't connected anywhere). My dad said clients would spend hours adjusting this knob until they got it "just right", and would make sure to let everyone know in the studio that knob was dialed in and to not touch it.
It's amazing how many silly things people have to do in all walks of life to placate the ignorant.
One of the best designers I've ever worked with had a similar great strategy with clients who considered themselves design experts (usually senior marketing/advertising managers) and who would almost inevitably want to change something in the “final” design.
The solution he had was to leave one obvious minor flaw in the final design – a color which doesn't quite match, odd font choice, etc. It was a lighting rod for unnecessary fiddling and was quite successful for keeping the changes quick and low-impact.
- A theater director was putting on a new show about some workers in a factory. In the background he put a wagon wheel. Before the premiere the communist representative came to evaluate the show. It was usual that some random scenes would be adjudicated unacceptable and cut from the show. When discussion started the communist rep asked what the wheel, which was used in agriculture, was doing in a show about factory workers. The director argued that it shows the connection between proletariat and agriculture workers. A vigorous discussion followed at the end of which it was decided that the wheel should be removed. The director ended up being the first ever to not have any scene cut.
- A painter visited France and desperately wanted to bring back some modern art reproductions so that his colleagues, who where not allowed to leave the country, would get a chance to see them. But modern art was forbidden and there would be no way customs would let the reproductions in if they knew what they were. So the painter got also some nude reproductions. The customs people confiscated the nudes as soon as they saw them and let the modern art go through.
This reminds me of a scene from the movie "This Film Is Not Yet Rated", where Stone and Parker describe inserting a super-graphic sex scene into the movie "Team America", which they knew the MPAA board would ask them to remove, attracting their attention and allowing them to keep their R rating.
Audio really attracts crystal-power wackos, somehow more than others. I've had to dodge all sorts of completely idiotic thinking both in the digital and analog world. Hell, it's the whole business model for Monster Cable, as one example.
One other pretty common (and slightly less imaginary) trick is to nudge the master fader up about 1dB and play the same mix again for the client. For some psychoacoustic reason I don't fully grok, we perceive things as sounding better when they're louder, even if the difference is too small to register consciously.
Signal to noise ratio. If your noise is at some average amplitude X, and you have signal at two levels, Y and Z (and both average above X, because otherwise you would just perceive X distorted a bit), then the lower of Y and Z will have more of its amplitude within the average X amplitude. I.e., if Y < Z, Y/X < Z/X, then (loosely), Z will have a larger percentage of its signal that is not masked by noise.
When I was a kid, whenever my bro yelled to reduce the volume of the TV I just stay silent for a moment and say 'ok?'. Sometimes he demands to cut off a bit more noise. I wait for a second and say "NOW?". He's normally happy with the two tries.
although it's one of those things that's hard to pin down as "real", this story is extremely similar to one that's told about murry wilson, patriarch of the beach boys. apparently as he was intent on mucking about during their sessions, brian eventually obtained a dummy console and let his father fiddle with the knobs to his heart's content.
This is one of those things that is done by people going "We need our customers to 'feel secure'". I get the rationale, but is there actually any data that suggests this gives that actual feeling? That users "feel" more secure? Or are more trusting of the site? Or is this just cargo-cult UX?
I've seen this on too many financial apps to think it's an isolated incident. It's clearly a "thing" in financial apps (TurboTax.com does it all the time; I see it on my Bank app, lots of mobile apps, etc.)
I worked for a company that implemented a similar technique and it had positive results. The main features of one of their web based software products was a report generator. The report was quite complex and included a lot of calculations based hierarchical relationships of entities in the system. To build this report by hand would probably take hours, but the queries and calculations were all highly optimized and could be run by the server almost instantly.
Many users complained that they didn't like paying so much for this feature because it didn't really seem to be doing very much. Instead of trying to educate each individual customer about all the intricacies of the report they just added a dialog box that would display for ~10 seconds and step through a few fake progress messages. People stopped complaining about paying for the report, and I would assume that is because the progress messages made them feel like something complicated was happening.
We implemented a similar thing a few years ago at a company I worked at.
We designed a very fast system zero-knowledge matching over zillion entries. It was way faster than the "competition" (which arguably were slow because they just never cared).
It took a few hours instead of a few days to run, basically.
While the results were 99.99% the same as from the slower solution, customers would think "it can't be right" or other things like that, and wouldn't trust the product.
We'd just give the result a day later. Fighting with customers expectations is sometimes very hard.
This reminds of airport nowadays. They were getting a lot of complaints about the slow speed that checked luggage comes out of after landing, so they simply moved all arriving flights' gates to the furthest away possible from the luggage claiming area. People had to literally walk across the airport after they get off, but complaints about luggage speed dropped significantly.
Actually, if I remember well (ut can<t remember where I get that from), another reason was so that people walk a little while to let their back recover from slouching all the flight before they pickup their heavy suitcase. Meaning in the end they had to bring less people out on a wheelchair.
It wasn't a joke, I didn't explain myself properly.
When some people pick up their heavy suitcase after slouching for a few hours, their back locks in and the airport has to put them in a wheelchair and take care of them and their luggage. Having people walk a few minutes more actually reduces the chances of that happening.
This happens with old-fashioned customer support and technical troubleshooting, too. It seems to be the temporal equivalent of putting scrap metal in electronics to make them seem heavier and thus "more reliable". The more I hear about it, the more I believe it.
This is a serious marketing problem about perceived value in B2B entreprise stuff. We had the same kind of problem the product was really technological: 15 years of research, a prover, 6-7 PhD and stuff like that. But I decided to simplify the interface to a minimum, and every parameter tuning should be automatic. We ended up with just a few buttons in a toolbar and a few views embedded in an eclipse plugin. Then the customers where thinking that an "eclipse plugin is not worth 10k€", because the technology was hidden.
Because (i'm guessing, since you're on HN) that you're an engineer. You spend all day telling the most logical thing ever created how to act. Its as predictable as a childrens television show. Human psychology is irrational, and thus unpredictable. The engineer psyche doesn't like that.
Those definitions of rationality are useful _because_ they are narrow. If you redefine "rational" to mean "how the brain operates", you might be able to stop using the word "irrational", but...all the phenomena that previously fell into the "irrational" category will still exist, and people will still want to discuss them, so you might as well just use the same word for them as everyone else does.
I know there is data showing that adding meaningless security badges and icons to checkout designs increases users' perception of security, so I wouldn't be surprised if the fake progress bar was effective.
I'm not sure if there is a better solution that doesn't misrepresent what's actually happening. Users sometimes have heuristics about the way that systems work which might be inaccurate. In this case, the heuristic is something like "doing work correctly takes time; failure happens quickly", where work is keeping your credentials secure. The fundamental problem is that it is difficult for users to differentiate between work done poorly from heavily optimized work done well.
This is a totally a marketing technique to make users feel more secure. It's no different than plastering the "hacker safe" (now McAfee Secure) seal on the top of your website. (Which by the way, in tests I've seen split-testing proved the old "hacker safe" seal works better than the new one, or at least it did when the new one was first released).
Most of users don't know what SSL is, but they sure as hell feel more secure if you have a big lock or a nice green checkmark in the top corner, especially if they're thinking about putting in their personal info or credit card number.
Full disclosure: I'm a founder of an online marketing company. :-)
Paypal (even with a two-factor fob) has a similar spinning page when logging in.
Once I fell for a phishing link, and the first thing to tip me off was the loading indicator was gone/too fast. In that instance it saved my neck as I changed my password asap.
Maybe users who realize due to a missing indicator should be smart enough to avoid such a trap in the first place, but I was definitely glad then and can see how this could be an active UX decision with positive implications.
Zurb did a tech talk a while back. They found that the drop off rate for one of their long running processes dropped significantly when they added a red bouncy ball as an interstitial for any process that took more than 400 ms.
If I had to throw a guess, I'd say there was a random non technical manager in the company who saw the page was loading too fast and didn't like it; "it should show there is a heavy process in the background, otherwise our customers will think it is too simple!". Either way I doubt an UX genius is behind this.
It could be the opposite. Wells Fargo has a lot of different apps that need to authenticate and integrate with their identity management/sso system. It is near-trivial to implement this sort of thing, but it isn't necessarily trivial to make it fast.
I wouldn't be surprised if the authentication process was taking long enough that a decision was made to add some sort of "loader" like this to make it appear like the extra time was absolutely necessary from a security standpoint.
It's a bit of a lazy decision from a UX standpoint, but it isn't entirely uncommon either: when you notice some action is slow, slap an animation in front of it.
If I had to guess, I would say it was the opposite. The page was loading too slowly, so users would click submit a second time. So the popup was added so the users know their first click was received and the page is loading.
Seriously, users will resubmit forms if the next page doesn't respond in a 1000ms - 1500ms.
I'm a developer and I am happy to leave the UX to someone who knows what he/she is doing. That goes far beyond "slinging photoshop" however. When I'm using a website or application I can usually spot where a developer did the UX, because it's quirky, "clever," uses conventions different from other parts of the system, or worst case is completely incoherent.
My $0.02: Banks will get hacked, your identity will get stolen but banks and their insurance companies see that as part of doing business. So far it has been quantifiable. But they want you to feel secure so you do everything online, it saves them in real estate and employees--even as fees skyrocket year after year.
This sort of fake-loader animated GIF is pretty common; it's just a slightly more advanced version of a spinner GIF. I don't think it's really that bad.
What would be bad is if this page would accept a parameter to redirect you to somewhere, but it appears it doesn't do that -- it just closes itself. Presumably this page appears in an overlay that then closes itself.
It's not "bad" in the sense of actually hurting people, but it is dishonest... it's a meaningless progress bar (not so terrible, Windows has us used to these), but the series of lies flitting on and off the page definitely isn't good.
We all know banks aren't trustworthy, but that's what they should be, and their goal should be actual trustworthiness and not false, theatrical crap like this.
I see a lot of comments condemning this feature and saying it's ridiculous. However, you have to understand that people outside of the tech industry have a very different mental model of how computers work than the rest of us.
One example of this is shown in a usability study by the Baymard Institute on top ecommerce checkout processes . The goal of the study was to determine best practices for checkout usability by testing the top 15 ecommerce sites. One of the more fascinating finds they made was that during the checkout process, users perceived certain fields as being more secure than others. Even though the fields were all part of the same form and on the same page, users still believed fields with a little lock icon were more secure than the rest of the fields! It didn't matter if the entire page was encrypted. Users would abandon the checkout process because the credit card fields didn't "feel secure" compared to the rest of the page.
To most of us, this looks like a frivolous feature suggested by a "UX monkey" (as one commenter put it) but don't underestimate the power of making users feel safe. For all we know, this stupid gif could have cut support calls 20%.
I use this tool everyday and it has always made me laugh. The security of the CEO portal is actually legit though. In order to do anything you must login with: company name, username & password. Once inside in order to do anything important you must use your pin number + a random number from a security dongle like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_token
Then someone else from within your company must repeat a similar process to approve your action. So you always need at least two people within your company to perform any action.
Typically the CEO portal is used for wire transfers where security is pretty damn important--once the money is gone--its really, really gone.
This reminds me of a story I heard about those ATMs. What I heard is that there are technologies out there that can make a machine to count/validate cash almost instantaneous while not sacrificing accuracy. But apparently, that makes some customers worry that their money is not being processed right, and thus, every time you deposit money to those ATMs, they make that grinding noise, appears to be doing something useful.
A state of the art surely advanced by the USPS. Every time I scribble out an address in my awful handwriting I pause for a second to appreciate the USPS software that reads this and turns it into a barcode. Though to be fair I think all it has to do is decipher the zip code.
It's more complicated than that. The last line has to match two out of three (for example, city and ZIP), and then it can try to do some reverse analysis on what you've written for the address line. (Even that's an oversimplification; it's pretty darn impressive.)
The USPS also has the additional challenge of matching what you think is your address with what is actually your address. Very, very few people know their address.
If that's not bad enough, if you've ever had something arrive successfully, you expect the address that was used to work forever.
Here's where you can go to find your actual address:
There are, occasionally, errors in the database. I'm trying to get one corrected now. If you find one, go to your local Post Office, find a supervisor, and ask him or her to notify "Address Management".
I didn't mean to short shrift them -- hell I brought it up to praise them.
I've been so impressed before by things like wrong addresses -- hell, one time I saw a letter with no address only my name and zip code. And it's not like I lived in a place where my mail carrier knew me. They've built a hell of a technology there.
TurboTax has something that struck me today as similar (in spirit) to this, though TurboTax's is a skeuomorphic thing.
It's the "Save & Exit" button TurboTax has. I'm sure that they are saving all info as it is entered, but users of QuickBooks, Excel, etc., I'm sure are used to having to save their data manually then exit.
I think all the guffawing at this progress bar is a little overblown. If a question or concern comes up in user testing multiple times -- "How do I know my connection is secure?" -- then why not put something in there that makes the user feel safer? What's the problem with that? Sure maybe it's a little overblown graphically but, c'mon, when you're a bank you need your customers to feel secure, in addition to actually being secure.
I think it is a terrible idea to put fake security symbols on the screen. It makes people trust those fake symbols instead of learning what they should look for. Since the symbols are just fake it is very easy to stage a MITM attack.
A much better security indicator would be something saying "This site is secure if there's a green area in the address bar [picture of what it should look like]. Click it to verify our identity.".
I'm pretty sure Turbo Tax is not saving as you go. I had just finished entering my income a couple of weeks ago, and just as I started on my deductions, it crashed. None of the work I had done up to that point was saved.
Then it'll just get stuck at 100% until it's done. It's not like users have never experienced this, progress bars have never been that accurate. Probably thanks to Windows, which did a pretty good job at educating users not to expect an accurate progress bar at all.
We added progress bars and silly status messages to our 500 error pages in our web app. Things like a 15 second count down to "recalibrate" or "attempting automatic system correction". It, at minimum, stopped users from constantly clicking a button or link that was having server issues (and thus spamming our error queue). Instead, they'd wait the 15 seconds and then go try again.
If the issue was transient, like a dropped connection to the database or memcached or some obscure deadlock, the "automatic" fixes worked as expected from the user's perspective. We, of course, still got the full error report to diagnose the issue.
I even have a few gems in our user feedback system where the users outright praise the "automatic error fixer" and they wish every website/app had a tool like ours.
It happens in chemistry too. In his book The Green Flame, Dequasie told the following story:
"The salesman had been selling hydrochloric acid, sometimes known as muriatic acid. The industrial grade usually had a green tint caused by contamination with iron. The company that the salesman worked for improved its equipment at considerable expense and proudly began putting out water-white muriatic acid. The salesman immediately began getting complaints from customers who did not want that weak white stuff. They insisted that they wanted that strong green stuff that they used to get. So, for those customers, the salesman arranged to have a small nail dissolved in each jug shipped to them. Result: happiness."
The Mac OS X.4 PBE would display the estimated boot time on startup; I thought it was using sophisticated logic, but was later told that it just averaged the last, say, 10 boot times (which is probably at least as reliable). I seem to remember that you could even execute `/usr/bin/loginwindow` (or some such path) from the command line and watch it pretend to boot at any time. I forget when this 'feature' went—maybe as early as Leopard?—but it's not in Mountain Lion.
I used to work for a major online tax software provider. I won't name them but I'm sure you can guess. Not sure if it's still there but right after you log in, there are some redirects that take you to the app servers hosting the product and you get the same type of loading image though no secure connections were being established.