Milky Way at Night

Leveraging the Power of Time in UX Design

One of the best ways to improve and innovate a product or service experience is to observe time’s impact upon it. Crafting the presentation of time is one of the least discussed and most important UX design principles to leverage.

Create with Time in Mind

Designers and developers should craft products with reverence to the creative power of time. The best product designers understand how time affects the end experience. Use materials that weather time well. Architects use metal walls that rust over time to the desired color and texture. Packaging designers create boxes that allow for products to be slowly revealed and revered through the time it takes to open them (think Apple’s iPhone box).


Consider how In-N-Out Burger extends employees out of the building and down a drive-thru line as the line gets long. This transforms the customer experience in key ways:

  1. A friendly In-N-Out employee greets a hungry customer sooner.
  2. There’s more time to help customers decide, thus speeding up the order process and ensuring they get what they really want.
  3. The more time there is between when customers order and when they arrive at the register, the more time the kitchen has to prepare their orders.

Bonus: If customers know In-N-Out’s secret menu items, they get access to a different experience with faster ordering and unique food options by saying a secret word or two.

Observe Time’s Power and Impact

In designing UX for apps and websites, think beyond the single interface screen and into the context of how a user arrived there and where the user wants to go. Think in terms of the user’s journey, timeline and overall story.

Start looking at everything in every day life and you’ll see time drives it. Human growth and development rides on time. Music rides on time. Movies ride on time. Games depend on time. Our lives don’t move forward or change without time. Our universe doesn’t grow, expand and create without time.

Without time, you wouldn’t have experience. We would all be stuck in static moments. These moments would be disconnected and not even have meaning.

As we start observing the element of time as a key aspect in user experience design we will be much more likely to achieve an improved experience by providing context, relevance and meaning to the product or service. By focusing on how time can be altered and leveraged in a product or service, we will become more innovative in delivering that end experience.

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