What is a Microinteraction?

Microinteractions are contained product moments that revolve around a single use case—they 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. They are everywhere: in the devices we carry, the appliances in our house, the apps on our phones and desktops, even embedded in the environments we live and work in. Most appliances and some apps are built entirely around one microinteraction.

Microinteractions are good for:

  •    accomplishing a single task
  •    connecting devices together
  •    interacting with a single piece of data such as the temperature
  •    controlling an ongoing process such as music volume
  •    adjusting a setting
  •    viewing or creating a small piece of content like a status message
  •    turning a feature or function on or off

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. They can make our lives easier, more fun, and just more interesting if done well. That’s what this book is all about: how to design microinteractions well.

The Structure of Microinteractions

What makes effective microinteractions is not only their contained size, but also their form. A beautifully-crafted microinteraction pays attention to all four parts of a microinteraction.

A Trigger initiates a microinteraction. The Rules determine what happens, while Feedback lets people know what’s happening. Loops and Modes determine the meta-rules of the microinteraction. Each part gets detailed in its own chapter in Microinteractions.