Update the website U/I to better handle slow server responses

More and more often these days, the iNat servers are slow to respond. This request isn’t about that slowness, as addressing that likely requires throwing more money at hosting hardware and/or significant refactoring of the codebase. This is about what happens to the user experience when the servers are slow.

When I’m am identifying observations through the website, and get to the end of the page, I either click on “Skip To Next Page” on the popup or one of the numbered squares at the bottom. It is not unusual recently for it to take 10 seconds or longer to get any response from a request to switch pages here. During that time, there is no indication from the U/I that it is doing anything. Can we change the pointer, display a “Please Wait…” popup, or give some other indication that it is doing something. I start to doubt that I clicked on anything and click again, causing the server to do double the work and me to wait even longer.

On the website, the species input box sometimes takes a very long time to populate. If I am typing a partial name and want to pick from the resulting list, there’s nothing that can be done about it (though a visual indicator to tell the difference between “we’re working on it” and “no matches” would be helpful), but if I know exactly what species I am trying to enter, can I just type the full name and hit ENTER, without waiting for the very slow list to appear?

As a touch-typist entering a species, I often type the first part of the name, then hit down-arrow a couple of times to get to the right name on the pop-up list. But when things are slow, I sometimes see the list change, responding to the first character, second character, third character… that I type. Each time that updates, the high-lit name from trying to down-arrow through the list resets to the top. When all of those updates are delayed by several seconds, much confusion results, and wrong species get selected. Maybe once someone starts using arrow-down and arrow-up in the popup list, do not change the list under them.

These are a few off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many other places where the U/I could better deal with not getting a response within a second or two from the server. It’s probably worth doing a complete study of the site. As a side bonus, this would probably also improve the experience for users in areas with poor internet service too.

Around the City Nature Challenge many of us end up with
a first ID, did it take?
Try again. But then the second ID takes, and the first one stays visible as withdrawn.
More work for the frazzled servers, and very confusing for the user.

I hate it when you do a search and get the message “no results,” when in fact there are results, they just need a few seconds to load.


Server sure was slow yesterday! I’m not surprised it inspired a feature request.