Thinking Small Is Thinking Big

Renee Haas

by Renee Haas

Senior Web Developer

Numbers light up as you ascend in an elevator to indicate the current floor. Cars beep, honk and jingle when you lock them as you are walking away. Toasters spring up when your bagel is done, preferably before it is burnt. These little moments when we engage with an object and we get something back are all around us. The same is true in web design, and we call them microinteractions. We see them in color changes when we click a button, in a loading graphic as we await content to display and in subtle dings we hear when we have new notifications. When we focus on microinteractions using sound, visual cues and movement, we can turn an ordinary user experience into a memorable one.

There are practical reasons for giving extra attention to how users interact with a design element. By focusing granularly on a single user action, we can discover ways to best communicate feedback, as well as show results of users’ actions. Microinteractions can guide users about how to interact with an interface, highlight change and inform users where they are. Take, for example, TurboTax, whose site uses visual cues to tell you what sections you have filled out and how many more you have to go. Or when you are downloading a large file and it displays how much longer it will take to complete. The attention to detail in these microinteractions proves to be very useful.

But microinteractions are about more than function. When done well, they humanize the world of web, which can often feel robotic, impersonal and static. They can help a website, app or brand stand out from others. Well-designed microinteractions can actually be fun, feel alive and bring delight to the user. Highly successful microinteractions become synonymous with a brand, make us fall in love with the experience and further brand loyalty.

The Facebook Like button is a prime example of a microinteraction so successful that is has elevated itself to being closely tied to the brand essence. Google changes its logo based on historic events of the day, and we love it for that. Domino’s shows us a tracker on the status of that pizza we just ordered. It might not be perfectly accurate, but it sure makes us feel good. Twitter used to display the infamous “Fail Whale” when the site was down, turning an otherwise frustrating moment into a delightfully cute one.

When we focus on microinteractions, we better communication feedback and results in the most delightful ways possible. Attention to the details enhances and elevates an interaction, leave a lasting impression. Even the most subtle microinteractions change the way we feel about the experience. If you think about it, these little moments of engagement are huge.

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