Microinteractions make a good product great. They can’t make a bad product good but, with the Internet of Things (IoT) being all about physical objects in our everyday lives, microinteractions are the difference between being locked out of your house when there’s a fault or no electricity and the smart door lock working even then.
Microinteractions is a term Dan Saffer uses to describe the numerous, small and contained interactions people have with a product or service. Watch his excellent presentation at Webstock 2014 to see designing at a detailed level.
Not a new term for UX
Microinteractions shares some goals with usability experience (UX) but it’s much more than that. It’s about feeling and emotions rather than simply whether a user can easily do something. Microinteractions are about anticipating user needs, providing feedback, preventing human errors, and making the product memorable.
If you’re old enough to remember the VCR, you’ll probably remember just how frustrating they were. Full of features that no one could be bothered to figure out. I suspect most people didn’t even set the time on the clock. No wonder a lot of people hated the VCR and a lot of similar consumer tech from that era. But, they still used a VCR to do the one thing that they really wanted from it- watch a video.
One of the more interesting applications of microinteractions is to give IoT products a personality. Imagine what personality you would ascribe to that dumb VCR and then think about the possibilities of a product that anticipates your needs and makes you feel good.
As Dan said,
Connected devices are composed of microinteractions: from the first time a user turns the device on, to syncing it to a network, to having it provide moments of delight throughout its life. Designing these small moments can turn a clunky proof-of-concept into something sellable.
Now that’s worth aiming for.