I was highly amused by something that came through my link blog subscriptions today – Vista RTM vs SP1 file copy performance. Although his results may be a little off due to the use of Virtual PC, I want to point out the observation he made: Vista file copy performance isn’t really that bad but it feels slow because someone decided that users only need progress updates every 10-15 seconds. I already knew this fact from tracking my network usage in task manager but it highlights a very interesting point.
Adding per-second progress updates to SP1 may have affected the speed of file copying tasks, but even if it was a lot slower than RTM everyone will rave about how much faster it is. This is an interesting phenomenon that I can remember we encountered early in the lifecycle of EditLive! (back before I started working on it).
At the time we didn’t have a loading progress indicator, we pretty much showed just a blank box until everything was ready. Adding a progress bar that updated properly increased our startup time by a few seconds so there were arguments about the benefits of including it. Eventually the progress bar advocates won, and immediately our customers gave feedback about how much better our startup was – even though we knew it was slower.
It turns out that people are always more patient with a progress bar updating constantly than some indeterminate screen where they don’t know if it will finish in 5 seconds or 5 hours. Even if it takes longer to complete, it will feel faster and they are assured that the application hasn’t crashed.