Design Process
min read

Understanding Microinteractions

Understanding Microinteractions
Table of contents

With the ever-growing realm of digitisation, most of us spend a significant amount of time on our phones and other similar devices (i.e. - laptops, tablets, computers, and the like). Our interactions include flipping pages of articles, swiping through social media profiles, tweeting, and sending texts and direct messages. However, what most of us don’t realise is that through the performance of such trivial tasks we are engaging with micro-interactions.

Microinteractions are everywhere. Whether it’s an app, a website, or even a regular feature, every well-designed device has it meticulously implemented. Smaller interactions and seamless detailing to well-structured information architecture help create delightful experiences. Even though these interactions often go unnoticed, they can convert a good experience into a great one!

So, what are micro-interactions and how do they help redefine user experiences?

What are micro-interactions?

As the name suggests, micro-interactions are little interactive moments incorporated into a design. They are minute captivating functional animations that are designed for applications and aid in stimulating a feeling of satisfaction when users interact. Micro-interactions are often overlooked because of how they’re seamlessly integrated into designs but hold the ability to not just increase customer satisfaction by making the product more enjoyable and easy to use but also amplify retention.

While micro-interactions consist of several digital elements, not every element is a micro-interaction. Many static elements present on the screen can’t be called micro-interactions as they don’t provide a distinct trigger. Similarly, flows that are composed of numerous actions aren’t micro-interactions.

Some of the most common trigger-feedback micro-interactions are -

— hovering over something

— liking, saving, or sharing a post

— gliding screens

— sliding menus

However, micro-interactions shouldn’t be confused with interactions as they’re quite different from each other.

— micro-interactions serve a single objective; delighting the user, by creating an engaging, human and welcoming moment.

— interactions primarily focus on the way a user interacts with a product. It uses the principles of good communication to provide preferred user experiences.

Microinteractions — The Mechanics of it

As is already evident, micro-interactions are trigger-feedback pairs. Now, what does that convey? We’ll elaborate.

The size and structure of micro-interactions are what make them more persuasive. Micro-interactions are based on a four-step structure, which includes —

The mechanics of microinteractions

Trigger

Indicates the start of micro-interactions and can be initiated by the system or the user. Micro-interactions that are user-initiated can include pressing a button, scrolling, swiping, and clicking. System-initiated triggers are when certain fixed criteria are met, the system gives out a trigger. This includes pop-up animations and notifications.

Rules

Determine what is to happen once the trigger has been initiated. When rules regulate what is to happen next, there is a need for a trigger for that specific interaction. For example, where there is an error prompt being triggered immediately after an error in the login attempt.

Feedback

Happens once the trigger has been initiated. It includes everything that a person hears, sees, and feels, which can be counted as feedback. Examples of feedback include a trigger that’s seen when a screen is swiped or the animation that’s noticed on the screen (changing colors, highlights, or simple abstract-like animations) when left idle.

Loops & Modes

Ascertain meta-rules related to micro-interactions. They determine how long the micro-interaction is set to last. They may also be used when a particular situation disturbs the normal flow of the micro-interaction. While they may not necessarily be a part of the initial design solutions, they’re equally important to overall user satisfaction.

Benefits of Microinteractions

Designing an amazing UX product and separating it from a mediocre one, requires attention to detail. Even though microinteractions are minuscule design elements, when given adequate attention and designed with good detailing, can help enhance the product's overall experience. They help improve the UX of the product by turning the UI less mechanical and more human-centric.

Given below is a list of reasons why micro-interactions are a necessity for every product design -

User-friendly Interfaces

Microinteractions help enhance the ease of using a product. They can be utilised on different platforms and are evident when looking to improve overall user-friendliness. For example, think of a website that has a tab bar that lights up every time you hover over the icons present in it. Some of the buttons even have other menus appearing when you hover over them. This is a useful micro-interaction that enables the user to know if the tab bar and icons are interactive.

User-friendly interfaces

When it comes to micro-interactions, the thought almost instantly goes towards visual. However, hearing is as essential as seeing. Often a notification when accompanied by a sound catches the user’s attention much more clearly, than otherwise, thus showing the importance of micro-interactions in creating user-friendly interfaces.

Delightful Experiences

Consider Snapchat’s bitmojis. It’s fun to see someone typing and interacting with you, almost as if it's a real-time conversation.

Delightful Experiences

When chatting with someone on Snapchat, and the other person is typing something, their bitmoji immediately appears on top of the type bar, like a bobblehead with a cloud ellipsis. This is a fun and clever usage of microinteraction, which creates a unique experience for both users as they interact with each other.

More Human Interactions

Artificial intelligence isn’t always fun and games. Thus, efforts are always made to try and make apps and devices less intimidating, through decorated software and design. Human perception takes animated interactions as less grim to interact with, thus making them more human. Badly designed websites and interfaces can truly be torture and make the interaction robotic.

User Retention

A well-designed and good microinteraction have the ability to market a product really well. Microinteractions have the ability to attract users, no matter how small and unnoticeable they are. Along with attracting users, it also has the ability to retain them as they help make the overall user experience smooth and fun.

User retention

Conclusion

In UX design, micro-interactions hold the ability to provide macro solutions. Even though very small, minute moments, their effect on user experience is truly indisputable. A basic sound design and good animation can get a user absolutely hooked, something a bad design can reverse. And these small moments and instances hold marketing values too.

However, even though minute, they can be quite tricky too. Thus, it is necessary to know how to focus on their subtlety and make them relevant to the product at hand. Nonetheless, while the decision of that solely rests with a UX designer, it is undeniable that the power microinteractions hold in the digital realm is unquestionable.

Publish date
September 27, 2022
Last update
January 13, 2023
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