Most of the time, when we’re creating user interfaces, we’re working under the assumption that they will always be the same. No matter when or how long a user spends on a page, the page looks and behaves the same way. However, occasionally, we’ll need to handle situations on our applications or websites where time is of the essence.

Perhaps we’re displaying sensitive information in our application, and for security reasons, the user will need to extend their active session every thirty minutes or be automatically logged out. Maybe we’re building a shopping checkout interface, and the items in the cart can only be held for a certain amount of time. Maybe the user is completing a test for a certification, which needs to be done within a specific time limit.

When possible, we should avoid imposing time limitations on any of the content on our websites or applications. However, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid. In these situations, it’s our responsibility to ensure that the time limit is still as accessible as possible for our users.

Time limitations and accessibility

There are many scenarios where timing can be important, but we can’t ignore the needs of our disabled users when coding these interfaces. Users who are navigating through our UIs using alternative methods, such as head or eye-tracking assistive technology, simply won’t be able to move as quickly through the interface as other users. Users with cognitive differences, such as dyslexia or ADHD, will take longer to fully read and comprehend the content on the page. Users with anxiety disorders can find a countdown timer stressful and distracting. Regardless of the reason, we need to be mindful of users for whom time-limited content will present a challenge and offer alternatives.

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