Naga Chokkanathan

Queues & Progress

Posted on: May 13, 2010

I hate queues.

For that matter, we all hate queues. Don’t we?

But can Queues be made interesting? There are many tricks (carrying a book, listening to music, TV, mobile games, fill your tummy with snacks, catch-up on phone calls, make new friends etc.,) followed by organizations, and by people waiting on their queues. But believe me, none of them are effective queue-busters.

The reason is, when you are waiting on a queue, the main problem bothering your mind is, when will this be over? Will I get my movie ticket (or travel pass, or visa stamp, or whatever)? When? Until you get a satisfactory answer to these puzzling thoughts, you can’t concentrate on anything wholeheartedly. Means, that queue should be over, for the monkey to be off your back!

So, a simple solution for this complex problem could be, a small progress indicator, which tells the people how big is the queue before them, and how long they may have to wait before reaching the counter. We can see it in many highways, where there is no queue, but people may be hungry for a snack, or need to fill their petrol tank, or empty their bladder, It is also a virtual queue, making them wait for the right place.

For example, one board may say “Delicious south Indian breakfast @ XYZ restaurant, 10 kilometers ahead”. That gives you a clue how long you may have to wait before grabbing something to eat.

Interestingly, it doesn’t stop here. After 2 kilometers, you see another board “Delicious south Indian breakfast @ XYZ restaurant, 8 kilometers ahead”. This continues for every two or three kilometers, preparing us, telling us that we are progressing in that virtual Queue.

You might have seen a similar approach in certain software solutions also. At any given point of time, they tell us how much of our work is done (for example “18% completed”, “Step 8 of 9” etc.,). It makes the boring task of filling a form little bit interesting because we are aware of our progress constantly.

(Image Courtesy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Progress_bar.png)

This should interest many software developers / designers, because such progress indicators help in improved user adoption / acceptance, resulting in a better customer satisfaction!

With this understanding, just have a relook at your current / previous projects / screens – Are there any virtual queues? If yes, are you telling your users about their progress? What can be done to improve this?

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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