Creating meaningful micro-interactions subtly completes the overall experience for any user navigating through the website or using an app. It puts the fun, the ease, and the humanness into the little interactions you make with your digital devices.
In fact, microinteractions happen so often that I daresay that you, as the user barely even notice it. Users acknowledge micro-interactions all the time — albeit subtly.
The animations on Facebook’s react buttons are one such example of a micro-interaction; the animated call-to-action buttons you find at the bottom of your web page. All of these are micro-interactions that you encounter every single time you visit some part of the web.
Why does your site need micro-interactions?
Your website may feature a very gorgeous design and some killer graphics, but if users are having a hard time even trying to figure out how to work around it or maneuver it, then rest assured that they won’t stay long enough to see what else is in store.
A good developer focuses on both UI and UX; because a healthy and responsive website sports both — not just one and disregarding the other completely.
The reason for creating meaningful micro-interactions taking center stage is that it enhances the experience of a user in the website.
These microinteractions are made to accomplish singular tasks — like changing settings, reporting the current status of a process, sharing a post, receiving a message, etc. As mentioned before, these microinteractions are hardly ever noticed, mostly because we simply expect to be there.
But for the developer, ignoring it because it’s barely acknowledged is a very big mistake.
FullEStop never said it better:
“The difference between the products we love and those we simply use are often the microinteractions associated with them.”
Microinteractions don’t just enhance the user experience; they inspire customer loyalty.
What to consider in creating meaningful micro-interactions
To create meaningful micro-interactions for all of your users, there are things that you need to consider. And each of them will play a part in your micro-interaction conceptualizing, planning, developing, and executing.
Everytime we interact with a website or an app, we come face to face with micro-interactions. And perhaps it’s fair to say that we must keep it as simple as possible.
Think about the fact that they’re labeled micro-interactions for a reason. They’re not meant to be complicated. Create something too complex and flashy (that even though it’s pretty), it might actually end up frustrating your users even more.
Web designers and developers need to focus on the bigger picture: adding value and meaning to something as commonplace as a micro-interaction. Don’t settle for a stagnant way of thinking. Think about how your users will see your product as it evolves.
The Purpose Behind a Single Micro-interaction
Every time you create a prototype of a micro-interaction, you need to think of why you’re choosing that specific action.
Ask yourself what kind of message you would want to convey to your users. Don’t fall victim to a creative trap. Make no mistake that it’s certainly not bad to get creative, but in your quest to create something with value, never lose sight of your target audience and the set objectives.
The Tiniest Details
With the use of micro-interactions, even the most tedious of tasks can become a mesmerizing feature. From the little animations popping up whenever you click an icon, or the smooth transitions from one face of the product to another.
They really are anything but teeny tiny when user experience is factored into the question.
Micro-interactions are great for:
- Managing ongoing tasks
- Accomplishing one task
- Controlling ongoing processes
- Adjusting and tweaking settings
- Pairing up two devices together
- Interacting with data
- Viewing pieces of multi-dimensional content
- Turning features on or off
Sketching your ideas for micro-interactions into paper is one thing, but seeing those micro-interaction prototypes in the hands of your users is yet another story. In every aspect of business, authentic reviews from customers are so valuable — both to improve the user’s experience and to create the best app possible.
You must be purposeful even in your feedback fishing:
- Test out several versions of the prototype on selected users: Let them compare the different versions and air their grievances; what they liked about it, what they disliked.
- Start small with your testing: In the early stages, it can be good to test out the prototype among you and your teammates. But as the product reaches the final stages of development, it’s wiser to begin field-testing.
- Asking correct questions: In testing out several products, you must have core questions that should be answered. As you do this, you should know exactly what you’re testing it for.
- Avoid being biased: Be objective. Shine light on both the negatives and the positive aspects, and restrain yourself from outrightly selling the idea.
- Adapt as you test: Cultivate a flexible mindset throughout your testing phase. For instance, when you find certain components of the design are drawing attention away from the core purpose of the entire thing, considering making modifications toward that specific component. Maybe minimize it, or remove it all together when you find you don’t actually need it.
- Let your users contribute: The whole point of asking for feedback is because you want to know what needs to be done to create an app that’s fitting and accessible for everybody. Ask your users what they want to see, what kind of process the would prefer, etc.
Mind the do’s and don’ts of creating meaningful micro-interactions
As we have already established in creating meaningful micro-interactions, the designer and developer must pay attention to the details. So, as you create a visual design that contains micro-interactions, you must follow these do’s and don’ts of designing micro-interactions:
- Think about long-term use: Design a micro-interaction for long-term use. Make it evergreen.
- Start with what you have: You can’t start from absolutely nothing. In creating meaningful micro-interactions, you need to know who your target audiences are and what they prefer to make the best micro-interactions possible.
- Cultivate harmony with other visual UI elements
- Take human anatomy into account: Pay attention, in particular, to how the human eyes and the mind react to visual elements.
- Always make it better: Even micro-interactions need improvement at regular intervals. Anything that stays the same for a long period of time gets old real fast. It’s your job to keep things interesting.
- UX micro-interactions are functional yet invisible: They’re called micro-interactions for a reason. We’ve established the need for simplicity beforehand. Don’t create these little interactions and make them feel awkward or annoying.
The Structure of Micro-interactions (according to Dan Saffer)
In his book, Microinteractions: Designing with Details, Dan Saffer describes the 4 parts of micro-interaction. The trigger, the rules, the feedback, the loops and the modes.
The trigger is where all the micro-interactions originate and begin. It is either initiated by the user when they click icons or buttons or fill out forms in a websites, or a triggered by the system — which happens when sets of conditions or particular ones are met.
The rules of a micro-interaction function are set by the web designer. A simple analogy for this is turning the faucet. Upon turning the faucet (that serves as the trigger), water comes out. Water will continue to pour out as long as the faucet remains twisted clockwise.
The rules direct which action happens and in which order — when you receive a notification, or push a button, or fill out a form. In essence, these rules are only visible to the designer of the micro-interaction. For users, these rules are invisible. This is to create a natural flow in between triggers, rules, and feedback.
Saffer states that there are three main types of feedback: audio, visual, and haptic; with visual being the most dominant. Human beings have a tendency to look at what they’re interacting with. You can use feedback to add personality to your micro-interactions. The extra trick that you should totally consider according to designers, make use of easily overlooked elements — like the scroll bar, the cursor, a couple of buttons on-screen.
Loops and Modes
Loops determine how long a micro-interaction lasts. Consider the fact that your users might return again and again. The long loops work to extend your micro-interactions, letting them change and adapt over time.
Micro-interactions in UX: The Takeaway
Enjoyable experiences with a website mean more than just usability. It’s also being engaging and functional as well as add to the appeal of the website. Micro-interactions contribute to how a website looks and feels to your users.
- Communicate brand message subtly
- Provide a way for preventing errors
- Display a system or a process’ status
- Encourages engagement
So, a well-designed micro-interaction can make waves on how it impacts the overall user experience. Aside from making a site look more entertaining, they achieve a level of communication with the user. And these little details are sometimes all your really need to transform a good product into a groundbreaking one.