Nobody likes waiting. We all want everything now: faster internet, next-day delivery, payday loans… we want the weekend to come, summer to come, Christmas to come. In fact, we’d all be happier if everything simply happened without the wait.

Or would we?

Imagine a world where everything is instant. You snap from one intent to the next, each action immediately producing a result before you speed onto the next thing.

This happens over and over – all day, every day – until it’s time for bed, where you fall asleep instantly.

Waiting people

In reality, existing like this would be a disaster – not least because we make mistakes when we rush. Snap decisions made without careful consideration allow our cognitive biases to influence us, and cause us to make rash – often bad – decisions.

What’s more, interesting things happen when we’re waiting. Unexpected experiences, thoughts, feelings: if we aren’t mindful, these can come and go unnoticed and unappreciated.

Wait a minute

Consider the archetypal ‘waiting’ scenario: the queue. While queueing, we instinctively reach for our phones to pass the time. Occupied time feels shorter, so we keep busy to ease the drudgery of waiting.

In this scenario, we might also experience ‘micro-waiting’: those moments in a digital experience where, again, we have to wait.

Wait for apps to start up, web pages to load or videos to play. In an increasingly omni-channel world, we are impatient and easily distracted – so what happens in these micro-moments really matters.

53% of mobile users abandon sites that take longer than three seconds to load.

Source: Google.

See if your website hits the mark here.

Users want to access information and services quickly, to avoid waiting – in fact, Google recently announced page speed will now be a ranking factor for mobile searches. So we optimise and compress our content, sometimes forgoing quality for speed.

If we sacrifice style, personality and points of difference, we lose the very attributes that good brands (and good experiences) are made of. So how do we keep the best of both worlds?

The waiting game

Micro-animations in the digital experience are a good example of how these fragments of time can be used to add value. Subtle visual cues can be built into technology to confirm our interactions in a satisfying way.

This is done by providing tactile responses to our actions, with devices reacting in ways we recognise from our experiences in the physical world – e.g. the sensation of turning a page, or pressing a button. Google’s material design uses familiar tactile attributes to help users quickly understand affordances.

Material Design

There are also psychological factors that suggest waiting can evoke a positive experience. For example, we place more trust in computations when we are required to wait.

Imagine visiting a price comparison website to get a car insurance quote, if a list of prices were provided immediately after tapping ‘submit’, you might question how thoroughly the website had searched for the best deals. Some sites embrace waiting time, offering reassuring messages while the search is being conducted.

Our conscious mind is like a supporting character who believes herself to be the lead actor, and often has little idea of what’s going on.

Daniel Kahneman, Author of Thinking, Fast and Slow.

More from saintnicks: Curiosity: the key to creativity

Turning loss to gain

 Daniel Kahneman, the Noble Prize-winning psychologist, says our conscious mind is like “a supporting character who believes herself to be the lead actor, and often has little idea of what’s going on”.

By this, Kahneman means that our intentional choices and actions are seen as superior to the instincts that automatically guide us through the world.

However, while time spent with nothing for our conscious mind to do is considered wasted, acknowledging and embracing unfilled moments of calm could serve to make our lives richer.

Time well spent

As an industry responsible for building digital experiences, we – in partnership with brands – have the power to sculpt empty moments into something meaningful.

We can actively create satisfying ‘friction’ to connect one action with the next, while adding value to the user’s experience of in-between time by introducing elements of education, engagement and entertainment.

Because waiting shouldn’t be a bad thing – we just need to give it a chance to mean something to us.


If you want to find out how you can make the most of your downtime – or even make time a more productive commodity, get in touch. Call Jonny West on 0117 927 0100 or email him at