Interaction ’13: Looking Back

As a first time conferencee atendee, I wasn’t eactly sure what to expect from this years IxDA conference, Interaction 13 in Toronto besides the cold. Needless to say it was an experience, and a pretty amazing one at that. With about 60 talks over 4 days, and only one of me, it made it a bit difficult to take in everything (I tried, really), but after a week of letting it all sink in, there are a few that have stuck with me.

Over the next week I’ll be highlighting each of the presentations that resonated the most with me, sharing a bit of the insight along the way. Without further ado, Interaction 13 at a glance.

Microinteractions: Designing with Details

Quick, think of an app or tool you use that you aren’t too fond of. Why is it that you don’t like it? Chances are it’s because of a microinteraction or a lot of microinteractions that aren’t great. Dan Saffer’s presentation on how microinteractions can make or break a great experience was hands down, flux capacitor at 88 MPH, fantastic.

So often we get caught up in the big picture, sometimes neglecting the little details that truly create delight in a product, or lead to so so experience. Microinteractions are not features, and simply do one thing and do it well. Exhibit A: a toaster. Totasters make toast pretty well, and that’s about it. Ideally they are suited for single, ongoing tasks for example when a payment form guesses your card type when entering the number. Have an iPhone? Then you are probably aware that it’s not actually always sunny and 73 out (at least not here in Chicago in February), due to a very subtle, but less than great microinteraction. A solid design baseline is key, as a bad experience is still a bad experience that no microinteraction can save.

A great microinteraction can be broken down into four parts:

Triggers are the interaction associated with starting or initializing the action users want to take. Anticipation of what users want to do is both very difficult, and important for a good trigger. For example, swiping up on the iOS lock screen gives a peek of the cameara app behind it.

Rules help determine the interaction, and when or how it will be done. Interacting with a lamp is pretty straightforward. Add a motion detector, and now the rules for interacting with that lamp have changed a bit.

Feedback is what helps us or prevents us from learning the rules. A sad face on an empty cart when shopping is a great example of this.

Loops and Modes
Loops and modes are used to help extend the microinteraction over long periods of time. They help to create the impression that the interface has grown and changed.

While there are elements of emotional design that seem especially relavent to help create delightful experiences through microinteractions, I think it is important to remember that sometimes it is ok to sweat the small stuff. Microinteractions in addition to a solid design, can be the difference between a good experience and a great one. Balance and moderation, like most things in life, are key though in order to get it right.

As Charles Eames once said, “The details are not the details, they make the design”

Absolutely looking forward to reading Dan’s book on microinteractions due out in June, and seeing how else they can be applied.

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