Jedi mindtricks for a ‘faster download’

“I would probably close the app and open it again”

Illustrated comic depicting a player on a testing session talking and a researcher taking notes concerned

This is what a player told us while testing the first build we were about to put on the stores for our brand new game.
The device needed to download some extra assets and with just a few user tests, it became clear to my fellow researcher that we had a problem.

Because… what if they didn’t open the game ever again?
The effort made by the marketing, BPU and art team on attracting players to download the game would be unfortunately lost.

All because of a technical necessity and our innate impatience.

The process

Ideally, we would fix this problem making sure that the build is updated as possible on the stores, to minimize the amount of players seeing this screen.
But, as it often happens in the real world, there was no time for that. And as for right now we had a painful friction point in our First time user experience flow.

The problem was mentioned by my producer on our daily, and I proposed to sync with him and our Researcher to fully understand the details.

I remembered reading about progress bars feeling to go faster in a Celia Hodent blog post. So I dived into all the research and articles I could find about the topic and put some guidelines together, split in two:

  1. Quick wins easy to implement
  2. Longer term solutions, looking into the future.

Agreeing on a quick fix

I put together all my findings and ideas in some slides and set up a meeting for the next morning with the Producer, the QA and the dev team.

Questions framing the task

  • Do we have time to get art support?
  • Do we have a maximum and minimum download time?
    Not yet – just some early estimations.
  • When does this need to be implemented?
    As soon as possible!
  • What does our current screen have?
    A loading bar, a text saying ‘Downloading content’ and a art background showing some game action. All of it static.

The main problem then was that if the download bar stopped moving, everything felt completely static. Players could think that the game was frozen and churn, or close and reopen again – to maybe face the same problem and eventually leave forever.


The most important thing was to ensure players the download wasn’t frozen. All without art support and fixed by the developer in a simple way.
This is what we did:

Animated wireframe showing solution. The downloading bar moves up with the percentage, the estimated time is shown underneath and a spinner is moving around at the bottom
Wireframed solution
  1. Add a percentage % to the progression bar to help convey progress on the download. In this study they tested progression perception in 3 types of solutions and the progress bar came second. Close enough for our quick fix.
  2. Bring a spinner to the screen. If we couldn’t animate the bar, at least we could reuse our spinner here, something that would never stop moving and was not dependant of the download, to reduce the static feeling of the screen.
  3. Add an estimation time text. People are more prone to show patience if they know how long they’re gonna be waiting for, specially if it’s for a short time. Based on our early data and people’s attention span we added: “This may take up to 1 minute” under the bar.

Looking into the future

We’d like to measure the impact of this fix with some more user testing in future builds, and see how players report the wait for downloading content.

These are the longer term ideas I proposed for further implementation:

1. The bar aaalways moves.

Trick the bar to keep it always moving, slowly if needed.
And accelerate it as it goes closer to completion to enhance the ‘achievement’ or excitement effect.

2. Add an effect to the bar.

backwards moving and decelerating ribbed effect in the progress bar creates an illusion of increased velocity, which in turn, alters our perception of progress bar duration.

3. Tell what cool things are awaiting your players.

Gif showing the Sims 3 intro with a loading bar and a text underneath changing

Remember The Sims loading messages? I used to spend a lot of time reading them and trying to spot which ones were new.

It’s a great opportunity to spark interest about the narrative and the world of the game – and because it changes, it adds to the progression feeling.

backwards moving and decelerating ribbed effect in the progress bar creates an illusion of increased velocity, which in turn, alters our perception of progress bar duration.

4. Make it fun!

An interactive animation is the best for easing waiting times.
This is a game! Exploring ideas for a minigame can be a fun little project involving the whole team.
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp even rewards their players with very small amounts of soft currency. And I stay there the whooole time. Loss aversion? Potentially. But I also feel great when I get all the coins ?

My learnings

UX can bring fast value with low impact on implementation

Reacting fast and putting solutions together as the problem appears was key. As well as offering low hanging fruits considering the team’s current context.

Everybody: Keep an eye on the full flow.

I was totally unaware this screen was part of the flow. Mapping the entire flow in a Miro board has helped me and the team keeping track on the needs and opportunities we didn’t initially planned for.