I recently came across this article in which Marketing Tech covers the importance of ‘Micro interactions’ in a user experience (particularly as it pertains to application development).
What are they?
Micro interactions are “contained product moments that revolve around a single use case” – functions that only complete one main task. Some examples of these micro interactions are the icon you see when a page is loading or how a heart appears when you like an Instagram photo. Ultimately, these micro interactions are playing off of what Norman calls Feedback – sending information back to the user to let them know that an action as been taken and that something has been accomplished.
When do they matter?
Sarah Preston, author of the Marketing Tech article, argues that these micro interactions shouldn’t be an afterthought in application development – rather, they should be planned from the onset of a project. One must think through the various actions that users will be taking, what will trigger micro interactions, what will happen once they’re triggered, and what the feedback for that action will be.
What should they look like?
Put simply – they should be basic. These interactions should be very subtle so as not to distract the user from the task(s) they’re trying to accomplish in your app/on your site. They should provide constant feedback in a simplistic, non-intrusive way. A good example of a micro interaction is when you hover over a button, if it gets bold or highlighted in some way, and then when you click the button, you get a loading icon, or perhaps the button changes color – something to indicate that you clicking on the button produced some result, all while not distracting you from the task at hand.
Why do they matter?
Micro interactions create an all-around more intuitive, more pleasant user experience. Constant feedback lets us know that our action has produced some sort of result (or that it will). When an action doesn’t provide any feedback (say, you click on something and nothing happens), users default to thinking that either they’ve made a mistake or that an aspect of the site/app isn’t working properly. This leads to frustration, a poor experience, and likely to that user finding a better alternative.
Norman, Don. “The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition”