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Package tracking + Progress bars

From John Maeda's blog I learned that progress bars make you perceive time at a faster rate. This bit of trivia came up in a discussion with parakkum about an order we're having shipped from the East Coast via ground rate.

Packaging tracking is a form of progress bar for your packages, but, as currently designed, it's somewhat broken. Instead of smoothly incrementing from start to finish, a package tracking progress bar quickly jumps to 20%, pauses there for four days, and then moves through the remaining 80% in the final 24 hours. Rather than creating a sense of movement for your package, the scene imagined is a box encased in ice, sitting ignored in the back corner of a warehouse, where a postal worker on a smoke break suddenly discovers it four days later and re-expedites it on its way.

For the OCD crowd, those of us whose compulsion is to build emotional attachment to our online orders by following their travels from postal hub to postal hub, I believe it would benefit us for package tracking to be reimplemented to create a smooth sense of movement over time.

There is a mapping problem between the actual design of the system (the package is in fact sitting in a single warehouse for four days) and the desired "smooth movement" perception, but that can be solved by rethinking the notion of "location" to be much more granular (i.e. specifying a specific location in a warehouse). Tell me that my package has moved from "Jacksonville, FL Shipping Dock" to "Jacksonville, FL, Northwest Sorting Facility" to "Jacksonville, FL, Upper package belt." Regale me with tales of how my brave package has criss-crossed across conveyor belts -- up, down, left, right. You can even go as far as to equip your scanners with low-quality cameras and post photos of my package alive and well, happily exploring your new high tech sorting facility -- I've seen video clips of a package sorting facility, and there is quite a bit of movement, quite a bit of drama, to be elicited. If Monsters Inc can create an action scene using the movement of doors through a sorting facility, why not utilize the same sense of movement for my packages?

If that is technologically unfeasible, or if the package is still sitting still, lie to me if you must. Up until the moment the package has arrived, or is late for the scheduled delivery, it really doesn't matter what tale you tell me as long as it's interesting, and non-static.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on March 21, 2005 8:54 AM.

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