I’ve been asked What’s a Microinteraction? a few times lately, so here’s a brief excerpt from the draft of the first chapter of my new book, Microinteractions.
Microinteractions are contained product moments that revolve around a single use case. In other words, microinteractions have one main task. Every time you change a setting, sync your data or devices, set an alarm, pick a password, log in, set a status message, or favorite or “like” something, you are engaging with a microinteraction.
…Even though we’re surrounded by microinteractions every day, we don’t usually notice them until something goes horribly wrong…but microinteractions are, despite their small size and near-invisibility, incredibly important. The difference between a product you love and a product you tolerate is often the microinteractions you have with it.
Microinteractions are the details of a product, and details, as Charles Eames famously said, aren’t just the details; they are the design. Details can make make engaging with the product easier, more pleasurable—even if we don’t remember them. Some microinteractions are practically or literally invisible, and few are the feature that you buy a product for (although many apps and devices are created around a single microinteraction; see Chapter X); instead, they are usually pieces of features, or the supporting or so-called “hygiene” features. For example, no one buys a mobile phone for the mute feature, but as we’ve seen, mute can create all sorts of experiences—for good and bad.
Think about it: Almost all operating systems, be they mobile or desktop, do basically the same things: install and launch applications, manage files, connect software to hardware, manage open applications/windows, etc. But the difference between operating systems—at least from a user’s perspective—are the microinteractions you have with it on a daily, even hourly, basis.