Lens: Type: Complex Level

The duration of time in which experience design scenes take place.

Photo: Pixabay
wall clocks for many time zones

When people complete activities, time is an aspect beyond their control. Time is a constant, always moving. Depending on the setting, time can feel like it is moving faster or slower, and this relativity of time can impact how people carry out activities in experience design scenes.

For example, let’s consider a person who wakes up late for work. In this scene, the quantity of time between when they wake up and must arrive at work is less than the time they usually take to complete their activities. The person feels pressure because they cannot get everything done before work with the time that is left. So, people typically make choices. They eat a breakfast bar instead of a bowl of oatmeal. They skip a 20-minute workout. They rush their kids out of bed and out the door and forget to grab lunch. Limited time may cause the person to be more pointed with a bus driver or drive erratically. Not everyone rushes to arrive on-time when they run late—some recognize that they are going to be late to work, perform their normal activities, and accept the consequences. When time is short, most people experience pressure.

When people have “extra” time and perceive that time is bountiful, they may be more likely to notice details in the settings around them. They may take time to make small-talk with others. A perceived abundance of time can facilitate thinking about a person’s future, the meaning of life, or other existential questions.

Time is a constraint that frames activities. It defines what can be completed in a specific amount of time. It compresses activities when time is short. When designers consider time’s role in experience design scenes, they can create products, services, and systems that work within and leverage these constraints to facilitate intended outcomes.

Time Examples

  • 15 minutes left till sunset
  • The remaining time to complete a quiz
  • 3 months to file paperwork for a driver’s license

Researching Time

Designers discover constraints when they research matters related to time. This research can focus on the person by studying how much time they typically take to complete an activity. Research can also start with a product, service, or system to examine how much time is required to use each object effectively. Research into the time aspect can also reveal discoveries and opportunities for design. For example, researchers may find that people wish they had more time for certain activities, or that when people are pressed for time, they respond negatively. These discoveries can help designers create outcomes that help people have more time for other activities or help people better cope with time limits.

Questions to Ask About Time

  • How does the setting frame time usage and limitations?
  • How do people cope with time limits?
  • How long to activities take to complete?
  • How effectively is time being used in this setting?
  • What could people do with their time in this setting that would be more beneficial?

Look for These When Researching Time

  • Activities that are rushed or slowed down because of the setting
  • Ways people respond to time constraints
  • What people do with their time when they have an abundance


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.


Pschetz, L., & Bastian, M. (2018). Temporal Design: Rethinking time in design. Design Studies, 56, 169–184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.destud.2017.10.007


Chu, L., & Carstensen, L. (2022). Revisiting the role of perceived time horizons in socioemotional selectivity theory. In Innovation in Aging (Vol. 6, Issue Supplement 1, pp. 188–188). https://doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igac059.750

Zimmerman, D. W. (2005). The A-Theory of Time, The B-Theory of Time, and “Taking Tense Seriously.” Dialectica, 59(4), 401–457. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-8361.2005.01041.x

Formal Science

Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Social Sciences

Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. The American Psychologist, 54(3), 165–181. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.54.3.165

Sonnentag, S., Arbeus, H., Mahn, C., & Fritz, C. (2014). Exhaustion and lack of psychological detachment from work during off-job time: moderator effects of time pressure and leisure experiences. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19(2), 206–216. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035760