All websites and apps strive for an instant response to any action taken by a user. Yet there are times when this is simply unachievable due to limitations in processing power or network connections, among other things.
For example, an instant response is not possible when hefty database queries are needed to provide the user with what they want. Regardless of the reason, loading periods are a fact of life in web development, so it’s best to make the experience as comfortable as possible for the user.
A loading bar is a visual element that can be used to provide the user with some feedback during the loading process. Fortunately, web designers aren’t limited to only one standard type of progress indicator, and there are many ways to create them.
Keep reading more about this topic in this article created by our team at Amelia and learn how to create a loading bar that suits your interface best.
What Should You Know About A Progress Indicator?
A loading bar is highly effective in keeping users patient while data is fetched. Because all users have high expectations when it comes to how fast an interface is, given today’s trends, you will need to meet those expectations by leaving a good impression.
Since you can’t actively communicate with the users while they are waiting, you must use a loading bar as a virtual way to communicate with them and let them know for how long they have to wait. This is a great way to be transparent and the only thing worse than an ugly progress bar is having no progress bar at all.
A good loading bar should make the user feel like something is being accomplished, and how long it will take to finish. To achieve this result, your loading bar should answer the following questions:
- How much time will be required to complete the activity?
- What is the current status at the moment?
More generally, progress bars can also be used to keep track of a user’s activity in an app or on a website. The progress bar will fill as the user engages and finishes certain activities on the interface. Such indicators require immediate feedback to notify users about their status.
Loading bars have the following benefits:
- They reduce the level of uncertainty that users face when using an interface, meaning that the progress bar keeps the user assured that the interface is doing something.
- They offer a purpose for waiting, thus making users more patient. A good loading bar will catch the attention of the user and alter their perception of time in a positive manner, making waiting more bearable.
Types of Loading Bars
Looped animation loading bars are graphic elements that repeat themselves over and over. They are meant to let the user know that the system is working, but they don’t let the user know how much time is required until the interface is ready to use.
This type of loading bar is recommended for loading screens that don’t last more than 10 seconds, as they are aesthetically pleasing but not appropriate for long loading times because they can induce the feeling of uncertainty, which is exactly what we want to avoid by using progress bars.
Loading bars with linear animation are much friendlier for interfaces that require showing actual progress. They go from 0 to 100 and they can’t decrease in value, which is why they are called linear bars.
These are probably the most popular type of progress bars which are seen on most platforms, regardless of their type. They can also be used for multi-operation processes by adding markers along the way to notify the user that one process is done and the other is beginning.
Finally, skeleton screens are used for longer waiting times because they include temporary information. Skeleton screens are meant to distract users from the actual waiting process and offer them valuable bits of information to digest while the interface is loading.
These are often seen in OS update loading screens or games. Using a skeleton screen is a great way to shift the attention of the user towards the information rather than how long the waiting time is, as in the case of linear loading bars.
What to Do When Designing A Loading Bar?
Everyone has stumbled up on a progress bar at least once in a lifetime because, as mentioned, they are largely unavoidable in all areas of computing, online or otherwise.
Designers always try to innovate how a loading bar looks to keep the users happy while they wait. It’s a good idea to get creative with progress bars, and hereare some tips on how to do it:
- Let people know what they are waiting for. Informing users about the purpose of the waiting process is mandatory. You can’t simply throw an empty loading bar at them and have them wait minutes and minutes. Fill the space with valuable information such as how much time is left.
- Make the loading bar fit the rest of your design scheme. Don’t create a progress bar that has nothing to do with how your interface works. Use a similar color scheme and the same style used for your branding. You can add your logo or mascot next to the bar as well.
- Always include a true timeframe. For instance, if the loading process usually takes around 1 minute, mention that below the progress bar. Don’t try to lie by saying that it will take one minute, when in fact it takes 5. Be as close to the truth as possible.
- Instead of showing a percentage between 0 and 100, you should try to use steps. For instance, if the loading process has 3 steps, make the loading bar 1/3, 2/3 and 3/3. It would be easier to wait for it to load this way.
- Use animations to make it dynamic. As mentioned before, you need to distract the user from the fact that they are waiting. Use all sorts of animations to direct the attention of the users towards something else. You can also make the loading bar interactive.
- Users should be able to pause or cancel the loading process. This doesn’t apply for all situations, but if you are designing a progress bar for an update, you should consider these options.
- Make the last part of the loading process the fastest. A progress bar that loads fast near the end of the process gives the effect of a shorter loading time than in the opposite case. It is easier to tolerate, and people enjoy these more.
What Not to Do When Designing A Loading Bar?
Even though you may have plenty of freedom when it comes to designing a loading bar, you need to stay away from this list of common mistakes:
- Don’t use static loading bars. These are indicators that do not move and only let the user know that they should wait. You might have seen the message “Please wait” while using a platform. That is an example of a static loading bar. They don’t offer enough information, they are not engaging, they don’t distract the user, and they are not aesthetic either.
- Don’t give the wrong information. As mentioned before, you need to stay true to your users. Don’t create a progress bar that fills to 90% in a few seconds and takes minutes for the last 10% to load. Make it even and specify the correct time remaining.
- Make sure that the progress bar is constantly moving. A loading bar that stagnates for a long time will give the impression that the platform crashed. This behavior frustrates users, so you might want to give this aspect more attention.
- Avoid transitioning between different types of progress bars. Don’t use a spinner and then move to a linear loading bar. It’s best to maintain the style throughout the whole platform.
Ending thoughts on these Loading Bar Designs
If you follow all the tips and tricks presented in this article, you have nothing to worry about. People will definitely enjoy a loading bar that meets all the criteria mentioned here. Progress bars are details that make a huge difference in the long run, so take the time to design it right.
If an app takes forever to load and no loading bar is included, the user is more likely to leave the platform immediately rather than wait for it to load. The whole purpose of using a progress bar is to make users feel in control and comfortable. They need to be notified about the platform’s current status at any given moment. And don’t forget to get creative with it!
If you enjoyed reading this article about loading bar design, you should check out this one on homepage design.
We also wrote about a few related subjects like login page, golden ratio in design, website critique and information architecture.