May 17, 2022

Research Article: “Loading… Loading… The Influence of Download Time on Information Search”

The following article was published today by PLoS ONE.


Loading… Loading… The Influence of Download Time on Information Search


Alyssa C. Smith
University of Waterloo

Brandon C. W. Ralph
University of Waterloo

Jeremy Marty-Dugas
University of Waterloo

Daniel Smilek
University of Waterloo


PLoS ONE 14(12): e0226112
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226112


When browsing online, there is considerable variation in the amount of time that one has to wait for content to appear once the link to that content has been activated (i.e., clicked). In two experiments we examined how ‘download time’–a potential barrier to information access–influences search behaviour. In both experiments, participants completed a video-watching task in which they were presented with a screen containing six clickable icons, each of which represented a unique video. When participants clicked an icon, a video would begin to load and then play. The participants’ task was to gain as much information from the videos as possible for a later memory test. Critically, however, the ‘download time’ (i.e., the time between the click on the icon and the video beginning to play) of the available videos in a given search session varied. In Experiment 1, these download times were 0 (instant), 2, or 30 seconds, and in Experiment 2, they were 5, 15, or 30 seconds. In general, we found that participants terminated and avoided videos with longer download times than videos with shorter download times. Interestingly, this effect was attenuated when the experienced download times were more similar to each other (Experiment 2) than when they were more different from each other (Experiment 1).

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.