I remember the first time I tried to download an audio clip online. Netzero dial-up Internet, constant interruptions by telemarketers, and I had to use the clip my college professor had provided. I had procrastination down to a science, but this was gonna bite me in the rear.
It was almost awesome.
The audio clip was interminable, and took hours to download. Literally. Every half hour or so, I would check, and crack my knuckles; the only thing that kept my sane was the progress bar, the visual representation of that murky branch of computing known as download progress.
This interesting article highlights some interesting points behind the creation and proliferation of the ubiquitous feature. It also speaks to human nature, and our innate need for reassurance.
According to the informative write-up, Brad Myers, a pioneer behind “percent-done progress indicators,” the concept was easily proven, even back then. Using research involving four dozen students, he showed that the majority preferred a visual indicator to none at all.
“People didn’t mind so much if it was inaccurate. They still preferred the progress bar to not having anything at all.”
I find the latent points fascinating. It’s not too shocking, but even in the relatively instant world of computing, our minds still hold sway. We like to see progress, so much so that we use indicators that may or may not be accurate. Further, I find myself getting nervous just contemplating a world without progress bars. How would I know my Dropbox transfers are almost done?
No matter how computerized mankind becomes, the most powerful one will be the CPU God put in our heads.