The world of UX/UI is perhaps a more exciting aspect of software development as it involves customer-first strategies and offers plenty of opportunities for designers and developers to use their creative side, which for some is a welcome break from constant coding and number crunching. 

Microinteractions are one such interesting phenomenon. In this post, we will cover the meaning, benefits, best practices, examples and tips on creating usable micro-interactions to give your users a delightful experience. 

What are micro-interactions?

These are the interactions between the user and the website/app to accomplish a specific task or to evoke a particular customer engagement. They are the everyday actions users perform on a website or app. Here are a few common examples:

  • Sign in/Register pop-ups
  • Like, Love buttons (including emoticons)
  • Swiping left or right
  • Mini scroll bars
  • Progress bars
  • To see someone’s typing…
  • Animated doodles
  • Speedometers
  • Push and pull buttons vertically
  • Social shares
  • Creative page loading designs
  • Tap effects
  • Scroll-in for a bigger view
  • Downloading/refreshing icons
  • Error sounds
  • Auto-fill options

And these are only a few from among hundreds of types of micro-interactions.

What is the purpose of developing micro-interactions?

Helping the users navigate through the app or enter their information

Provide them with a positive and refreshing experience

Offer them a way to provide feedback

Ease their journey towards the call to action

Provide fluidity and intuitive features to maintain a simple flow of events

To make them feel delighted and build trust in the digital product

To achieve a targeted action desired by the user

To let the user know the exact status of their action/app’s action

They give tips and direct the user’s attention

Here’s our step by step guide to building engaging and useful micro-interactions.

There are four components to micro-interactions:

Trigger

This is a manual (user-initiated) or system generated (system-initiated) event that starts the micro-interaction. For instance, when a user clicks on a specific button, prompt or when the system automatically starts a micro-interaction when certain criteria to initiate an action have been met. 

The Rules

Triggers engage the Rules. Rules determine what happens once a trigger is generated. For instance, ‘which page/action to go to next?’, ‘what should be done and what should be restricted?’, ‘what should be the sequence of the next couple of actions?’, and such other decisions. 

Feedback

Feedback occurs when the user is informed by the system about what’s happening (through sound, images or text) so that the user can wait until the results are produced or try a different action. 

Loops/Modes

This refers to the meta-rules of micro-interactions, as in what to do when the conditions change from among options and where the interaction should be directed in case of variables. It decides the length of the interaction and if it repeats or if it changes over time and what alert to give to the user in that specific context.

How to design the best micro-interactions?

To create engaging micro-interactions, developers must follow main principles/practices that leave the user feeling satisfied and successful in the action they wanted to accomplish. Use the tips below.

  1. Define the purpose of each micro-interaction

First and foremost, you must be clear about why you’re designing a particular micro-interaction and what is the relevance to the user and the app. It’s not necessary to jump on to a new trend just because it’s popular but maybe distracting or useless to your particular project. Ask yourself, ‘why would a user engage with a specific micro-interaction and does it help the user?’

  1. Keep it simple

Less is more and more is confusing. There shouldn’t be unnecessary micro-interactions that could distract the user and waver their attention in the wrong way. They shouldn’t feel exhausted or rubbed the wrong way when using your app/website. It’s not about you – the developer, it’s about them – the user. 

  1. Analyse and improve

Perform tests on your micro-interactions to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. You can get the initial feedback from your MVP or by getting inputs from within the team at first.

Different parameters to measure the usability of your micro-interactions can be as follows:

The number of users who complete the entire micro-interaction

The time it takes to complete each interaction

The points at which the users abandon the micro-interactions

The reasons why they don’t engage with any micro-interactions

How many errors occur at different stages of micro-interactions

The number of steps (the lesser, the better)

If the language of the micro-interactions is understandable to the users

The user’s first and final impressions of the micro-interactions

If it helped them accomplish their goals in the amount of time they expected

A combination of qualitative and quantitative data can help developers gather vital insights as to where they need to improve usability and how. 

  1. Design them to fit in

Microinteractions should be designed in a way that they stand out slightly for the user to notice but are aesthetically aligned with the website’s or app’s overall look and flow. They shouldn’t be overly loud or distracting to the sight. They must remain constant in their design as well, i.e. they shouldn’t be wildly different in design from each other unless the goal dictates that they be designed as such.

  1. Don’t confuse animations with micro-interactions

Microinteractions are used only for specific/targeted actions while animations can be used elsewhere in any other part of the app/website for aesthetic or visual design. That said, you can always include little motion or transition effect in your micro-interactions as long as they don’t distract the user. Some examples are micro animated progress bar, loading icons like an hourglass, animated mascots, etc., that let the user know the status of their request. Keep the size of your micro-interactions responsive according to the different screen sizes your app will function on, such as different mobile screen sizes, desktop and tablets or foldable/wearable devices. The users on a smaller screen size shouldn’t have to squint their eyes to be able to view the micro-interactions. 

User control

At the end of the day, the user should have control over how he wants to interact with your website or app. If you force a micro-interaction on them when all they want to do is extract specific information or simply browse, they’re going to be turned off. At the same time, micro-interactions should be intuitive enough to suggest different options or nudge them in the right direction when the user is about to make an error, enter wrong information in the wrong tab or skip something necessary. If your micro-interaction is larger in size and steps, keep it simple and direct so that the users don’t quit halfway. Use text/copy to stress the importance of a micro-interaction, however, keep it concise and factual, not preachy or pushy. 

Brand alignment

Every micro interaction should be consistent with the brand colours, image, language and tonality so that they don’t look like they’ve been borrowed from elsewhere. 

Most of all, have fun with creating micro-interactions and create them from the user’s perspective. If the user finds your micro-interaction worthy of engagement, it’s considered to be a success.