The tricky equation between UX and Time

For centuries, humans have pondered upon the mysteries of time. Philosophers, scientists, artists have postulated theories, designed experiments and created art to explain the eternal conundrum of time. But beyond the various theories that lie before us, have we ever stepped out to understand how to leverage time and its various properties to influence our day to day life and experiences?

Mohita Jaiswal

Time to get beyond the constraints of science and marvels of science fiction…

What is Time?

According to the Oxford dictionary, Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in an apparently irreversible succession from the past, through the present, to the future. Time is used to define many other quantities like speed, on the basis of it being considered as a linear and a fundamental physical quantity, which is both a property of a material and also measurable.

Time is the measurer of all things but is itself immeasurable, and the grand disclosure of all things, but is itself undisclosed. – Charles Caleb Colton

However, modern science and Einstein’s theory of relativity have changed the ramifications from time being a property of matter to being a dimension. Just as we can move left-or-right, forwards-or-backward, and upwards-or-downwards: the three independent directions, known as spatial dimensions, time can also be considered as a fourth dimension but of a very different type. In order to describe an event, knowing where it occurs isn’t enough; you also need to know when, which means you need to know the time coordinate. And hence time becomes the 4th dimension.

Oxford Dictionaries:Time”. Oxford University Press. 2011. Archived from the original on 4 July 2012. Retrieved 18 May2017. The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole


This opens up for us new possibilities to view time in…

1. Experiencing the dimension differently

Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. – Albert Einstein

Have we ever felt so, that time is moving slowly or rapidly in different situations? While common logic denies it yet science suggests that if we move near the speed of light, time will slow down for us in comparison to those who do not. 

This points us to the ideas of timelessness(where time slows down) and time contraction(where time seems to pass very quickly). This can be a precious idea while designing for people  who demand a timeless experience or time contracted ones. For those who are starved of time in their lives or those who would want time to not end, it can be a box of openings.

2. Traveling through the dimension:

The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. – Albert Einstein

We could only travel through other spatial dimensions and time travel used to be thought of as just science fiction, but Einstein’s general theory of relativity allows for the possibility that we could warp space-time so much that you could go off in a rocket and return before you set out, moving back and forth through past, present and future.

Although everyone does not fancy being a traveler of time(for what and how it might impact the present), yet it has intrigued many hugely. If experiences allow us to gain insights from the past and  prepare us through visualizing predictions of the future, would we be people with greater perspectives to channelize our actions towards working for the best?

3. Being in different spaces at the same time dimension

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once. – Ray Cummings

We all realize that to move through space requires motion through time; if you’re here, now, you cannot be somewhere else now as well, you can only get there later. 

Omnipresence is a concept which has often been associated with god. However, technology has brought us to a place where we use omni(in all ways or places) in a lot of our terminologies(Heard omni-channels?) Technology has already reduced the barriers of communication and interconnection. Designing experiences which can further simulate users to feel being in different places at the same time could herald a newer era altogether.


How can we use time to design better experiences/ services/ products?

Socially time has often been equated with money.

How people use their time and the time which is allocated to different activities has been widely researched and debated from the perspective of human behavior, sociology, education and anthropology. Time usage has changed with technology, as the television or the internet created new opportunities to use time in different ways. How much time to be utilized at work, at homes, in travel etc, has led to numerous theories, models and tools being made on how humans could plan and manage their time best. 

While time is also increasingly becoming the basis of business models. SAAS(Software as a service), time based content subscriptions, co-renting spaces where you pay for the time subscribed for a service or a product/material have become commonplace. 

In such an atmosphere thinking from the wider perspectives and frames of time, could help one reap the greater time value of money.

Ask yourself:

  1. How can the experience seem timeless to the customer, everlasting as extremely valuable(giving more value than for the time it is accrued) such that it doesn’t seem to end?
  2. How can experiences be perceived quick for time starved audiences, for eg.  so deeply engaging such that time seems to move quickly for them?
  3. How can one make the user experience time travel, by allowing them to experience and gain from the insights of the past and the forewarnings of the future, to manage time more effectively? 
  4. How can the user experience being at different positions at the same time? How can the user increase their capacity to affect different things at the same time?
Modern philosophers ask: is time real or unreal, is time happening all at once or a duration, and is there a future to be? As modern science continues to explore these questions, let us take time out, to explore the possibilities of what could be, in the times we are, in our own day-today experiences with time.

Mohita Jaiswal

Mohita Jaiswal

Research, Strategy and Content consultant. With a master's from IIT Delhi, Mohita has diverse experience across domains of technical research, big data, leadership development and arts in education. Having a keen interest in the science of human behavior, she looks at enabling holistic learning experiences, working at the intersection of technology, design, and human psychology.


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