The success of a website or app is determined by how well it provides what users want. Functionality and aesthetics are equally important to ensure the audience stays engaged.
Microinteractions are small interactive design elements that make this possible. We often use them without thinking – like swiping preview notifications or the familiar refresh button.
Microinteractions provide visual feedback that makes it easier for users to figure out how to use certain elements of your website or app. This can be as simple as a button that moves when you hover over it; this visual response tells visitors the button is clickable.
Other examples of visual feedback include content refreshes (triggered by a user’s swipe or tap on an icon), progress bars, and error states. According to Jakob Nielsen, the visibility of system status is a usability heuristic that should be considered during microinteraction design.
These little moments of interaction can have a big impact on the user experience. They are also a clear sign that the designer cares about the user. Well-designed microinteractions meet the user’s natural desire for acknowledgment and create a more human digital environment.
In the simplest terms, microinteractions are trigger-feedback pairs. A trigger can be either a user-initiated action or an alteration in system state; the feedback is a narrowly targeted response to that trigger, and is communicated through small, contextual (and usually visual) changes in the user interface.
For example, a progress indicator on LinkedIn or a server name lighting up when a user talks in Discord are examples of microinteractions that convey system status, support error prevention, and communicate brand. These seemingly minor details make a big difference in creating a memorable user experience.
These little moments bridge UI and UX, where functionality and design meet to improve the product. They are what keeps users coming back and engaging with a website or app. They are what gamifies products like Asana, keeping their users on-track to completing their tasks and building loyalty for the brand.
A microinteraction’s impact is more than its small size. These tiny details are what make products you love (or tolerate) and are key to a great user experience.
Feedback is anything a user sees, hears, or feels after a microinteraction is initiated. This can include everything from a simple dialog box to a gamification-inspired unicorn animation.
For example, when you pull down on a LinkedIn newsfeed to refresh, the system provides visual feedback with a circular progress indicator. This encourages users to stay engaged with the product even while waiting for posts to load. It also helps them avoid second-guessing whether the action they’ve taken has been recognized by the system.
Loops & Modes
Whether they’re subtle or striking, well-designed microinteractions add value and meaning to the user experience. Moreover, they’re a clear indicator that the product designer really cares about users.
A microinteraction can also have loops or modes, which determine its overall functionality and how it adapts over time. For example, a microinteraction can display a progress indicator or let the user choose their preferred card payment method after they’ve made a purchase.
Loops and modes are important because they’re the meta-rules of the microinteraction and define what happens when its conditions change. For instance, a phone alarm will ring differently when the mode is set to silent or vibrate than when it’s in regular operation. They also determine the duration of the microinteraction, which is important for longevity.
Animation & Sound
It’s important to remember that microinteractions should always serve a functional purpose and provide value to users. That’s why it’s vital to balance aesthetics and functionality when designing them.
Animation and sound are another way to add a touch of personality to your microinteractions. They help communicate the current state of the interface and add visual appeal, but they should never be overused or distract from the overall experience.
Also, keep longevity in mind — what might seem fun the first time you use it may become annoying after the 100th. It’s important to test and iterate your microinteractions to ensure they are delivering the best user experience possible. The right microinteractions can help your product stand out from the competition and create positive feelings toward your brand.