If an action takes .1 second or less, it’s perceived as instantaneous. If an action takes longer than a second, users start getting distracted.1

Curious how popular practice management web apps stack up, I tested two. For both, I used the Timeline feature of Chrome’s Developer Tools to test load times over 1GB broadband.

  1. App #1 took nearly 7 seconds to load the dashboard and about 4 seconds to load the matter list. Keep in mind that I have far less information stored in this test account than the typical law firm would have.
  2. App #2 is a single-page app, built that way for the express purpose of speeding things up. It took just over 6 seconds to load the dashboard, but only .2 seconds to switch between tabs.


While .2 seconds isn’t instantaneous-feeling, it’s not annoying. Still, user interface designer Lukas Mathis says you should consider using feedback like an hourglass or spinner for anything that takes longer than .1 seconds. For actions that take 1 second or longer, your app should probably notify the user that the action has finished if they leave the app, because there is a decent chance they will get distracted by something else.

Even a “fast” practice management web app, in other words, is slow enough that it should probably display an hourglass when switching tabs. And a widely used and otherwise well-designed practice management web app is slow enough that it should expect you to leave the app while you wait for a tab to load.

That’s certainly not an optimal user experience. With the slower web app, that’s a 4-second wait every time you load a page, which you do dozens or hundreds of times a day.

This isn’t strictly a web app problem or a legal software problem, of course. Outlook takes forever to load on my reasonably fast MacBook Pro. And the lack of speed has always been one of my chief complaints about legacy desktop/on-premise practice management software.

Legal software doesn’t have to be ugly, clunky, and slow. Lots of legal software looks pretty great and functions pretty smoothly, in fact. But there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to speed.

  1. Designed for Use by Lukas Mathis, p. 192.