Designing and Engineering Time: The Psychology of Time Perception in Software

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Addison-Wesley Professional, Apr 29, 2008 - Computers - 224 pages

Build Applications, Websites, and Software Solutions that Feel Faster, More Efficient, and More Considerate of Users’ Time!

One hidden factor powerfully influences the way users react to your software, hardware, User Interfaces (UI), or web applications: how those systems utilize users’ time. Now, drawing on the nearly 40 years of human computer interaction research–including his own pioneering work–Dr. Steven Seow presents state-of-the-art best practices for reflecting users’ subjective perceptions of time in your applications and hardware.

Seow begins by introducing a simple model that explains how users perceive and expend time as they interact with technology. He offers specific guidance and recommendations related to several key aspects of time and timing–including user tolerance, system responsiveness, progress indicators, completion time estimates, and more. Finally, he brings together proven techniques for impacting users’ perception of time drawn from multiple disciplines and industries, ranging from psychology to retail, animal research to entertainment.

• Discover how time and timing powerfully impact user perception, emotions, and behavior

• Systematically make your applications more considerate of users’ time

• Avoid common mistakes that consistently frustrate or infuriate users

• Manage user perceptions and tolerance, and build systems that are perceived as faster

• Optimize “flow” to make users feel more productive, empowered, and creative

• Make reasonable and informed tradeoffs that maximize limited development resources

• Learn how to test usability issues related to time–including actual vs. perceived task duration

Designing and Engineering Time is for every technology developer, designer, engineer, architect, usability specialist, manager, and marketer. Using its insights and techniques, technical and non-technical professionals can work together to build systems and applications that provide far more value–and create much happier users.

Steven C. Seow has a unique combination of experience in both experimental psychology and software usability. He joined Microsoft as a User Researcher after completing his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at Brown University with a research focus on human timing and information theory models of human performance. Seow holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and wrote his master’s thesis on distortions in time perception. For more information about Steven Seow and his research, visit his website at


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Designing and Engineering Time
Perception and Tolerance
User and System Response Times
Detecting Timing Differences
Progress Indication
Expressing Time
User Flow
Testing Time

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About the author (2008)

Steven C. Seow joined Microsoft as a User Researcher after completing his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at Brown University with a research focus on human timing. Prior to Brown, the Singapore native completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a thesis examining the distortion of time perception. Steven constantly confers with colleagues across his company to talk about time and timing issues. Coupled with his scholarly interest in psychology is his passion for computer technology. In his spare time, Steven enjoys tinkering with computer hardware, dabbling with programming languages, and building websites. He lives in Maple Valley,Washington, with his wife and son.

For more information about Steven, visit his website at

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