Preface - Microinteractions (2014)

Microinteractions (2014)


Dan Saffer

What Is This Book About?

Microinteractions are all around us, from the turning on of an appliance to logging in to an online service to getting the weather in a mobile app. They are the single use-case features that do one thing only. They can be stand-alone apps or parts of larger features. The best of them perform with efficiency, humor, style, and an understanding of user needs and goals. The difference between a product we love and a product we just tolerate are often the microinteractions we have with it.

This book dissects microinteractions in order to help readers design their own. Starting with a model of microinteractions, each chapter closely examines each part of the model, and provides guiding principles to get the most out of every microinteraction. By doing so, your products will improve and your users will enjoy using them more, building customer (and brand) loyalty.

Who Should Read This Book

This book is for anyone who cares about making better products, particularly digital products. Designers of all stripes, developers, researchers, product managers, critics, and entrepreneurs will hopefully find much to think about, use, and emulate here.

This book is especially for anyone who has struggled to convince their client, developers, the product or project managers that this small thing is really worth doing, that it’ll make the product so much better. Now that small thing has a name—microinteractions—and can be argued for more effectively.

How This Book Is Organized

This is a small book about a small but important topic.

Chapter 1, Designing Microinteractions

Introduces microinteractions and discusses why something seemingly so insignificant is so important. The structure of microinteractions is discussed, laying out the overall pattern that all microinteractions follow. Lastly, this chapter looks at how microinteractions can be incorporated into projects.

Chapter 2, Triggers

Introduces triggers, the moment that microinteractions begin. Both manual (user-initiated) and system triggers are reviewed. The principle of Bring the Data Forward is discussed.

Chapter 3, Rules

Presents a discussion of rules, the hidden parameters and characteristics that define a microinteraction: how rules are created and what they should encompass, including the principle of Don’t Start from Zero.

Chapter 4, Feedback

Discusses feedback, or how the rules are understood by the user. When to use feedback, as well as the three major types of feedback: visual, audio, and haptic. The principles of Thinking Human and Using What Is Often Overlooked are introduced.

Chapter 5, Loops and Modes

Discusses loops and modes, the “meta” parts of microinteractions. The types of modes and loops are discussed, as well as how to use long loops.

Chapter 6, Putting It All Together

Puts together all the pieces of the microinteractions model to design three sample microinteractions: one for a mobile app, another for an online app, and the third for an appliance. This is also where we’ll discuss linking microinteractions together to form features.

Appendix A

Touches on the process of testing microinteractions.

Why Write a Book About Microinteractions?

Over the last decade, designers have been encouraged to think big, to solve “wicked problems,” to use “design thinking” to tackle massive, systemic issues in business and in government. No problem is too large to not apply the tools of design to, and design engagements can involve everything from organizational restructuring to urban planning.

The results of this refocusing of design efforts are unclear. But by working at such a macro scale, an important part of design is often lost: the details that delight. Products that we love show an attention to detail: the beautiful curve, the satisfying click, the understandable mental model.

This is another way to work: not through grand, top-down design projects, but from the bottom up, by crafting—lovingly, with care—small things. This is something designers can do quite well, with immediate, tangible results. This is another way to change the world: by making seemingly inconsequential moments into instances of pleasure.

There is a joy in tiny things that are beautiful and work well. This joy is both on the part of the user and in the creator, even though it certainly takes skill, time, and thought to make it so. It’s hard work, and as admirable in its own way as tackling the Big Problems. After all, who doesn’t need more joy in their life?

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical convention is used in this book:


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