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How Micro Interactions have become an essential part of great products.

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The world of User Experience design is growing fast, everyone wants their user to have the best experience. There are many ways to improve the user experience, including defining personas, well-structured information architecture and thoughtful written content. However, after defining high-level structure, smaller interaction design details is the one which thrills the user.

We as consumers, see and interact with these micro-interactions on a daily basis even without knowing.

What are micro-interactions?

Micro-interactions are small, preferably functional animations that support the user by giving visual feedback and displaying changes more clearly.

With micro-interactions, it’s possible to explain a lot without using a word.

Micro Interactions contain a large number of digital elements, but not every element is part of a micro-interaction. Static elements that are always present on the screen are not micro-interactions because they do not have a distinct trigger. Additionally, flows composed of multiple actions are not micro-interactions. There are two types of micro-interactions User Triggered and System triggered.

Examples for Micro Interactions

1. Scrollbar

Gives visual feedback to the user changing location within a page (User triggered)

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2. Pull-to-refresh animation

Gives visual feedback to a user action (User triggered)

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3. Swipe animation

Gives visual feedback that a user has swiped an element (User triggered)

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4. Digital alarm

Gives auditory (and visual) feedback to time condition being met (System triggered)

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5. Notification

Provides the user with feedback that a new notification has arrived (System triggered)

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Motion for Emotion 🙂

It’s important to keep in mind that animated elements take up space. Therefore it is necessary to make them count. That means animation must be used only when it compliments a functionality rather than to impress the audience or to add just a visual appeal.

But be careful, by using too many animations you will only flatten the hierarchy. It will tone down the message you are trying to communicate.

Here are some clever ways to use animation.

1. Take the boredom out of a loading screen

Users are willing to wait just two seconds for a website or app to load — any second of delay can cause many to leave for faster resources. Animated loading screens can be used to keep users entertained and engaged as they wait for content to appear on a site or app.

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2. Give users a clue

Designers can use animation to provide users with context on what they can do on the site or app. For instance, making a list of notifications slide up as they appear on the screen — instead of simply making them appear suddenly — tells users they can slide up if they want to see more.

3.Provide real-time visual feedback

To prevent confusion, designers can incorporate animated elements that provide instant visual feedback for every action they take on the app or website. For instance, a button may be made to change colors or light up when clicked or pressed.

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Micro Interaction Design Best Practices

As we have defined and described uses of micro-interactions and given an example of how they improve the user experience, let’s discuss the best practices for creating micro-interactions.

Identify and Understand the User’s Problem

The golden rule in user experience design is to uncover and understand user problems — it’s no different for micro-interactions. The best way to understand what the user needs is to conduct surveys or interviews or observe behaviour through user research.

Keep Microinteractions Natural

The goal is to bridge the gap between the user and a product in ways that feel intuitive and natural, so avoid strange animations that take too long to load or may distract the user. Instead, create designs that seamlessly flow with the product.

Test and Iterate Findings from Users

Even experienced designers rarely get designs completely right on the first try. That’s why using a process of user testing and iterative design is a simple way to reduce usability flaws before the product launch.

During the user testing phase, micro-interactions are tested and analyzed for usability and revised during the next design phase. This process is repeated until usability issues and pain points are corrected.

Clarify change and context

Especially with small screens and flat design, it’s an art to show all the necessary information. Because of this we sometimes hide elements. For instance, to clarify how to navigate, micro-animations can be the solution.

Take a hamburger-menu. If it expands without animation, it’s a lot less clear where it comes from. An animation supplies context, making sure the user doesn’t get lost.

If you take the hamburger menu-icon and make it change shape simultaneously to open the menu, you immediately show what the action would be if the user clicks it again.

Hierarchy & Focus

Creating focus is one of the more important reasons to use micro-animations. Something that moves, attracts attention. So you can ask for attention by animating a certain element. This can be really useful during an onboarding-moment. Emphasize the button you want the user to click to start an action on the page.

A menu item that is only relevant in a certain context, can subtly notify the user with its presence at the moment he will probably want to use it.

Or when a user closes a section, you can use animation to clarify where this section can be retrieved. For example, Take a share-option. Before you think of sharing an article, you might not think about whether you’ll share it on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. But once you click or hover the “Share” button this becomes important.

Brand experience

Animation can be a way to reinforce your brand experience. Your design gets more character by implementing micro-animations.

A beautiful example of this is the Google logo. They use their dots for the speech recognition tool. By using those 4 dots to communicate different statuses: waiting, listening, processing and answering.

Follow the Structure of Micro Interactions

  • Triggers A trigger initiates the micro-interactions. Triggers can be user-initiated or system initiated. In a user-initiated trigger, the user has to initiate an action. In a system-initiated trigger, the software detects certain qualifications are being met and initiates an action.
  • Rules A rule determines how a micro-interaction responds to a trigger and defines what happens during the interaction. For example, a flashlight app uses a button as the trigger that turns the light on and off.
  • Feedback A Feedback tells the user what is happening during the micro-interaction. An example of feedback is a signup form with inline validation — a border colour turns green if the field is filled incorrectly, and turns red if something is incorrect. This way the user instantly knows something is right or wrong.
  • Loops and Modes Loops and modes define the micro-interactions meta-rules and how the micro-interaction changes when used repeatedly. For example, in eCommerce, a “Buy it now” button might change to “Buy another” when the user has purchased the item before.

Conclusion

Well-designed Micro Interactions can make a big impact on your user experience. Micro Interactions provide visual feedback of the system status or help users to prevent errors. Additionally, these little details can transform a good product into a great product and a disengaged user into an engaged user.

Thank you for reading this far 🙂

Hopefully, this article helped your interest to apply this on your next projects. Please leave your thoughts, comments, and feedback below.

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How Micro Interactions have become an essential part of great products. was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.