Micro-interactions are small details that refer to engagement of users to their devices as natural as it comes when viewing a particular page on a website. Examples of common micro-interactions include the following:
- Pull-to-refresh feature of some mobile apps
- Vibration when the mobile phone is set to Mute
- A pop-up animation when a particular action is done
Some of the most basic micro-interactions that we encounter regularly are able to do the following:
- Instant feedback or a display of results after doing a specific action
- Accomplishment of individual tasks, such as liking a post or pressing a Save button
- Prevention of user-initiated errors
- Settings modification
Unknowingly for the user, these micro-interactions may come in the form of interesting and fun designs, but can also be extremely formal depending on the kind of design or theme that the company would like to use for their website. Some designers would make it a little less formal so it could be more appealing to the online audience without fear of clicking any of the icons on the platform.
One of the first examples of micro-interaction – and probably the best one to explain what it really is – is the pressing of a button to create an action. Pushing a particular button creates an action that yields a specific result, such as saving your work or cancelling a call.
How Do Micro-Interactions Work?
According to microinteractions guru Dan Saffer, there are four essential elements of every micro interaction:
This initial step of a micro-interaction usually appears as something that the user can tap, click, or flip. In a web browser window, for example, the Refresh icon (represented by a circular curve with an arrow head) will serve as a trigger to start an action.
Check out this product page from Reebok, and hover your mouse pointer to the product image. You should see a huge plus icon to zoom in, which is pretty standard for any e-commerce website. What’s different, however, is that when you click on the product image, a real-time zoom-in window will appear to show the finer details of the product.
These triggers do their work through a set of established action rules that determine what can and cannot be processed.
These are guidelines or conditions for a micro-interaction to take place. The perfect example to describe this element is the drag-and-drop editor in WordPress. A user can customize the page by dragging an image and dropping it into the editor screen. The editor screen turns blue and displays the text “Drop files to upload” to tell the user where to drop the image.
The action can only perform what it is designed to do, and that is to add the image into the content at the exact area where it was dragged and dropped.
This is the element that informs the user that the rules that were engaged by the trigger have been successful. An example for that would be when you opt to have your mobile phone in silent mode. Once you click on the button, the mobile phone would vibrate to denote that the action was successful.
This step serves as a confirmation that a specific action has been recognized by the system.
Loops and Modes
Loops determine the span of time of micro-interactions, while modes are responsible in taking care of less common actions that aid the user to continue with the process. In a pull-to-refresh micro-interaction, this step ends with the page refreshed with updated content.
The same is true with a YouTube video. While the video is loading, the user will see two bars below the video: a red bar that shows the percentage of the video that has been played, and a gray bar that indicates percent completion of loading the video.
The primary purpose of micro-interactions is to have an organized operational cycle. They shouldn’t be as noticeable as the main aspects of the screen, unless something is wrong or goes missing as the user continues to navigate through the whole interface.
The Impact of Micro-interactions in a Website
Micro-interactions can evolve from seemingly insignificant functions to real-life behavior-developing patterns in navigation and processing.
- Most micro-interactions are almost invisible but contain elements that allow the user to determine how to operate a specific task.
- Visual effects and animation play a significant role that leads to a specific behavioral pattern.
Having said all these, user experience (UX) designers should ensure that the user would always have a seamless experience in navigating through the interface. UX designers will come up with the most ideal patterns that can best meet the needs of the user no matter how complex it may become, for as long as it is what the user expects to see.
The design focuses on the functionality and aims to provide a dynamic experience to its users. Each element is carefully planned to ensure that it would be able to cater to the needs of the user.
Before coming up with the final design, it would take more than one designer to be able to integrate all of the necessary features to make the micro-interaction as dynamic as possible. It is advised to have a “dry run” to check if everything that has been incorporated into the over-all design works smoothly.
How To Implement Micro-Interactions In A Website
Human-centered design is what micro interaction is always based upon. A user doesn’t have to worry about the feedback of an action done because it should happen naturally.
Here are a few tips on how to maximize the benefits of micro-integration for your website:
- Prior to designing, make sure that you have an idea about how you would want the platform to perform its functions without burdening the users with UX mistakes.
- The design should be made in such a way that there would be no break in the interaction.
- Avoid using too many elements into the design that can make it look too cluttered.
- Use a language that the users can easily understand other than using highly technical terms that may confuse the user.
- Animation should not be too overwhelming.
- The colors used should create a cohesive look in the overall design.
- Careful thought must be done in coming up with micro-interactions, especially if there is a possibility in the future that they will be changed.
Using Micro-Interactions in Teaching New Things
Facebook has been modified a lot since it began, and this is quite obvious in the desktop and app versions of the social media site. As of its last update, you are given a choice on whether to publish a post immediately or to schedule when you want it to appear on your timeline. A simple arrow can be seen on the uppermost right hand corner to guide the user on how to make use of this new feature properly.
In terms of websites, a Call to Action (CTA) design is what seals the deal between the company and their customers. The design should be interesting enough to encourage site visitors to click on that button or subscribe to your page.
By “humanizing” technical tasks and allowing users to understand the functionality quickly, you can inject personality to the design. As a result, the micro-interaction could potentially become an asset to the brand or the business.
Micro-interactions can be implemented in different ways on the website, as long as the main focus in integrating them is achieved: to make the user’s experience as fun and informative as possible. The result of a completed micro-interaction should bring satisfaction to the user.
Ideal Micro-Interaction Practices
The wide variety of micro-interactions incorporated on websites and applications today has made designers focus their attention on making the experience more human-centered. Here are some of the best practices when it comes to micro-interactions:
Display a status while waiting for the action to complete.
Instead of waiting and staring blankly in front of the screen, the user should see some sort of status about the pending process. You may incorporate a design or mini-action that could entertain the user to make the waiting game more bearable, like the dinosaur game in an offline Google Chrome.
Make the micro-interaction design look good on all screens and devices.
Designers should not only focus on making the website look good on a PC, but also make the same context appear properly on mobile phones and tablets.
Add a mini-tutorial to guide the user in activating the micro-interaction.
There may be other uncommon layouts used by UX designers, but the design should be able to teach the user on how to make the intended action. It may be in the form of flipping photos, rotating letters, and the like.
Live tutorials are great ways to let site visitors or app users learn about the new action. It definitely beats reading strings of text that teach them how to use the design item.
These almost unnoticeable small tasks are already making a huge splash in the digital world, and it seems like micro-interactions are going to stay relevant for a very long time. You’ll probably think about its demise only when the standard button loses its cool and function.