Slow Happens in Seconds

We use JIRA for product management at PagerDuty. I like the workflow tools it has for passing tasks between teams and managing large projects, but it has one fatal flaw: it takes 20-30 seconds, at a minimum, to create a new task.

That doesn't seem like too much time, at first. I only create a couple tasks a day, and in the scheme of things a few minutes here or there isn't a huge problem.

But the mental barrier is.

After 1 second, users get impatient and notice that they're waiting for a slow computer to respond. The longer the wait, the more this impatience grows; after about 10 seconds, the average attention span is maxed out. At that point, the user's mind starts wandering and doesn't retain enough information in short-term memory to easily resume the interaction once the computer finally loads the next screen.

(Jakob Nielsen)

This is a standard we usually talk about regarding the responsiveness of applications to a request, but it also applies to how long a task takes in a product.

If it took 20 seconds to acknowledge an alert in PagerDuty, our customers would leave. We know that responders taking responsibility for open incidents is one of our core functions, so we make sure it's a one-tap interaction across web and mobile, and that the state of an incident gets displayed as a first-class piece of information wherever you are.

In my role, it's similarly important to capture follow-up and tasks without breaking the flow of a meeting or customer conversation. That's why I use Asana— because I can enter a task in five seconds. It's initially a little weird to think that a lightweight, workflow-less tool like Asana could supplant Atlassian's flagship product, but it all comes down to the job we're hiring the tool to do. Asana understands that teams need a place to track all the little, tactical stuff, and they build a product that addresses that need in a focused, well thought-out way. A fast-loading page, optional details (fill 'em in later), keyboard shortcuts, and a great mobile app all make it perfect for universal task capture without breaking flow.

I love Atlassian as a company, and keep wishing they (or someone in their development ecosystem) would put together a quick task-management layer on top of JIRA. JIRA is lovely for tracking agile sprints or managing long-term projects with cross-team dependencies, but unfortunately that's a small fraction of the day-to-day stuff you need to keep track of at a startup (at least in product management). The couple extra seconds it takes to enter a task in JIRA may seem insignificant, but it's those couple seconds that let a new vendor disrupt our toolbelt on several different teams at PD.