Time is irretrievable once it is gone. Your goal should be to reduce the time your users must spend. This doesn’t just mean increasing output on the backend, but maximizing data throughput on the interface.
We all take time for granted, and even those who don’t tend to focus on our individual time-costs. As creators, though, we should also look at the time-cost of our products because if you think about it the math shows that to be even more important. Time is a limited resource, variable to perception, but limited to roughly 24 hours available to every person.
To break down my point, if you can reduce the time a person has to spend with your product, that effect is multiplied for all your users. This multiplication effect makes it quickly achievable to save time, in the global sense, over a set of uses. You might lose an hour or two, but assuming frequent enough use, or enough users, there is a possibility for that time to be reclaimed. Humans are constantly working with technology and further progressing, to achieve this goal; even if it isn’t the direct goal.
Automation means that you can remove a users usage at some scale, possibly even fully. If a user does something every day, and it takes 2 minutes, that adds up to an hour over the course of a month. If you can remove the process completely, you just saved the person 12 hours a year.
For example, I started buying similar sets of clothes, black t’s and cargo pants. I only have to think about what to wear maybe once or twice a month. I saved about 90 seconds a day, in getting dressed. I removed the selection process, so that the choice became automatic.
At scale though, with lots of people using it, even a second, or a few milliseconds can add up. If you cut 0.1 second out of a loading time, that happens 5 times per user a day, you save them 15 seconds a month. If you implemented this in an hour, and it was only you, it would take you 20 years to reclaim that hour. If you had 100 users, it would only take 72 days. So even a very small scale, the global availability of time can be increased.
You can’t just tweak the backend though. Eventually, the time-cost won’t work out mathematically to spend more time trying to get more data across the same channels. You can still manage this by increase the capacity you present, if you do it logically, this is why designers are important. An engineer can get stuff done, but they aren’t always focused on the cost of time for a user. Designers should focus on the user-first, to help increase the fluidity, and thus remove hidden time-costs.
Another option for modifying the time-cost is in condensing the data, in a loss-less manner. Think about he way we use compressors to shrink the data we send over the wire. If we can shrink the details down without losing the context; still conveying the message. We can take huge steps in create a total time-value, vastly greater.
These are the goals that I feel should be focused on. And I do not disregard the fact that the tendencies are when time is saved, to spend it on even more information. This could be said to be good, or bad. I feel it’s negative, but that requires a additional capacity to prevent continued indulgence. That’s a topic for another time.