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Attunability

Some HCI researchers say that it is not so simple: users “attune” to a particular system's response rate regardless of its duration.[42] Ritchie and Roast say that user satisfaction with web performance is more complex than simple numeric response times. Users form a mental model of systems they are dealing with based on system response characteristics. To form this model, users perform a “selection and adjustment [of] subjective time bases, and adapting the rate at which the environment is monitored to meet its particular pace.”[43] Attuning is the process of forming this mental model and adapting our expectations to a particular system's response rate.

[42] Innes Ritchie and Chris Roast, “Performance, Usability, and the Web,” in Proceedings of the 34th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 5 (Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Computer Society Press, 2001).

[43] Chris Roast, “Designing for Delay in Interactive Information Retrieval,” Interacting with Computers 10 (1998): 87–104. Introduced the notion of attunability.

Consistent response times and adequate feedback help users attune to a system's pace. Inconsistent response times and poor feedback reduce the “attunability” of a particular system, and “temporal interaction errors” ensue. Thus “the less variable the duration of a particular task, the more likely that users can attune to the environment”[44] and the more accurately users can distinguish tasks of differing duration.

[44] Ibid., 91.


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