What Web Maintenance can learn from The Psychology of Waiting Lines

Jun 9, 2016 | Product,

Web Maintenance happens, site downtime happens, and in our haste to address it from a technical side we often neglect the human element of downtime. The user, safely tucked behind their screen is used to an instant and high-speed web and when that’s interrupted, it can be very very frustrating. David Maister, taking a step from the mathematical side of queuing theory looks at the psychological impact of waiting in his paper The Psychology of Waiting Lines. Maister proposes eight points that affect how a person perceives wait times.

  1. Occupied Time Feels Shorter Than Unoccupied Time.
  2. People Want to Get Started.
  3. Anxiety Makes Waits Seem Longer.
  4. Uncertain Waits Are Longer than Known, Finite Waits.
  5. Unexplained Waits Are Longer than Explained Waits.
  6. Unfair Waits Are Longer than Equitable Waits.
  7. The More Valuable the Service, the Longer the Customer Will Wait.
  8. Solo Waits Feel Longer than Group Waits.

Our goal is to build options and features that help address all of these points. Out of the gate WrenchMode focused on what we saw as the most important one to websites: 5. Unexplained Waits Are Longer than Explained Waits. The average user who ends up on a maintenance, status, or error page will have no idea what they’re viewing and why. One of the best ways to reduce anxiety and frustration at an unknown page is an open explanation as to what is happening with the app.

WrenchMode designed our Live Updates feature with this in mind. If a user sees updates actively explaining the process or what is going on to cause the disruption, they’ll come out of the experience more satisfied. More satisfaction leads to more return visits, upped conversion rates, and a better all around experience.