Friday, 21 December 2007

OS X Progress Bar Illusion

Over the past year, I've often had usability on my mind. Once you start thinking about things like that you also start to pay more attention to software you come across. Last week I was waiting for a large file to copy in OS X. I noticed that the vertical stripes in the bar are animated and move from right to left. This happens even when the bar itself is not progressing. This is interesting because it gives the optical illusion that the progress bar is moving faster than it really is. Its all down to optical flow if I remember rightly. From a psychological point of view, this probably relieves a little frustration when you have to wait and are watching the bar. My knee jerk response was to think "That's cheeky, it's a trick!". No one really likes being deceived (unless its a magic show) and its annoying to think yourself fooled. However, assuming that whatever it is you are waiting for is going to take that much time anyways and I'm subconsciously comforted a little, is that such a bad thing?

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