Microinteractions: the Secret Driving Force of UX

Design is in the details – and nowhere does this ring more true than with the design and implementation of a website. It is within these details that the heart of the optimal user experience resides and it is an essential task to ensure they are not missed. Designers must delve into the journey, placing themselves in the mind of the user to understand each step to reach the destination. For this purpose, microinteractions serve as the essential function to drive the core experience, ultimately leading to conversion.

Defining the Microinteraction

Fairly innocuous on their own, microinteractions are a series of tiny movements that lead to a wholistic experience. Providing singular moments of communication interaction, feedback and even feeling – the interface truly becomes an experience, offering seamless transitions, recognition and an more intuitive, human-centered process on the whole. These series of ‘interactions’, coined ‘microinteractions’ by author Dan Saffer, include movements such as: the vibration when you switch a handheld device to mute, the pull-to-refresh app interface feature, animation indicating clickability, an ‘add to cart’ (+1) animation – a series of actions leading to another. In an increasingly technological landscape (speaking to the Internet of Things, wearables, mobile apps, etc), these interactive elements are what help to make the digital and automated experience more humanistic.

Getting There is Half the Fun

To create the best possible UX, a visitor to a site must be able to easily accomplish a desired task. It is here where the ‘details’ come into play, but what we don’t normally think of is how the details are connected. In order to complete the task, a user must engage in a series of interactions with their device and chosen site to help them get to the final result, for example – checking a bank balance, purchasing an item, or placing a reservation.

Break it Down

In many ways, the idea of microinteraction helps to break down the heady task of great UX into manageable segments. Looking at the experience in an almost 3D fashion, getting inside and looking under the microscope to see what really needs to be implemented to make an experience great is seemingly the ideal way to ensure every touchpoint with a user is as it should be.

A Statement Without Saying a Word

Microinteractions serve essential functions, however, they tend to go unseen – acting as second nature for a user, and a best practice in UX design. As one would imagine, these interactions are an essential part of any type of interface – from ecommerce to blogs, apps and presentational sites. Ultimately, these series of interactions must be driven by the user. If the interface is designed in an optimized, fluent fashion – the user will follow each call to action, whether a 1-2-3 step approach or single button and accomplish their task – blissfully unaware that each step is backed by reasoning and design through microinteraction.

If there are two basic rules of implementing microinteractions: it’s knowing your users and understanding their needs to ensure visual cues and animations are aligned and keeping it simple – these movements are meant to be a next to invisible function that efforlessly move the user through the experience – overthinking/overdesigning/overworking will kill the process. Apply with intent, thought and always be testing.