What are microinteractions? How can you use them to deliver better, effective, and engaging learning experiences? Today, we talk about the importance of user experience, user engagement, and user interaction in learning. But, why do we usually limit them to a website or a web-based product? Why do we not use them in digital learning?
I strongly believe that applying microinteractions in the right way can help us create a huge impact on learner habits and interactions. In this article, I share 6 practical examples that you can use to gain actionable insights and measure the impact of microinteractions in your digital learning.
What Are Microinteractions?
“Microinteractions are an exercise in restraint, in doing as much as possible with as little as possible. Embrace the constraints and focus your attention on doing one thing well. Mies van der Rohe’s mantra of “less is more” should be the microinteraction designer’s mantra as well.”
― Dan Saffer
Microinteractions are all about behavior of the user, the way a user interacts and the details of each element. It is based on the user-centric design approach, where we focus on user behavior. Each and every move taken by the user within the learning product matters a lot. Lack of attention to even the tiniest detail can set back the overall learning experience.
Microinteractions must be simple, short, and easy. Let’s look at a scenario.
Harry wants to change his mobile and he is exploring new models in the market. He walks into an Apple store to check the newly launched iPhone 11 Pro. He finds the features interesting and buys the mobile. He unpacks the device and finds that the device is fully charged. It is ready to use with minimum effort. He leaves the showroom with a big smile on his face.
You must be thinking why this story and how is it connected with our topic? Well, people develop products for people. People are emotional and like simplicity. Microinteractions work in the same way. In the above scenario, the effortlessness with which a person can start using a new phone is a microinteraction. Similarly, every microinteraction within the user interface or a learning screen has its own function and value. Applying the right microinteraction approach can play a huge role in learner habits and interactions.
Microinteractions enclose a considerable number of digital elements, however, every element is not part of a microinteraction. In the context of digital learning, static elements that are always present on the screen are not microinteractions, because they do not have a distinct trigger. Anything composed of multiple actions is also not a microinteraction. Now, let’s look at how we can group microinteractions.
Groups of microinteractions include but are not limited to:
- Completing a single task with less effort
- Instant feedback to understand an ongoing process
- Better navigation
- Make it simple and easy for users to interact with a single piece of data
- A specific or a simple piece of content, like a status message
The structure of microinteractions is the process of arriving at the best effective learning approach for your digital learning. Dan Saffer describes four parts of microinteractions in his book. These are triggers, rules, feedback, and loops and modes.
Trigger: You begin the microinteractions with a trigger. It can be initiated by users, by clicking a button or an icon or link in your digital learning. It is also known as manual trigger.
Rules: Rules are the second level in microinteractions. A rule is majorly outlined by a designer looking at what each microinteraction needs.
Feedback: Feedback is the validation of your rules. There are three typical types of feedback: visual, audio, and haptic. Out of these three, visual is the most dominating feedback, because we tend to look at what we are interacting with.
Loops and Modes: Loops and modes are the final stage of a microinteraction. They define how long the microinteraction will last. This also provides us with the opportunity to determine what will happen when the user comes back again and again.
Why Are Microinteractions Important?
When we talk about learning as a continuum, we want our learners to revisit and consume digital learning repeatedly. However, while creating digital learning (product), we tend to forget that our main goal is to change human behavior. Now, before you start thinking of something different, hear me out. We design digital learning (product) for people and we want them to use it often and repeatedly, like a habit. To change human behavior, habits play a vital role and microinteractions can help form these habits.
We all consider ourselves to be good at designing. But finding the right opportunities for microinteractions (habit-forming experiences) in our design is the key. We should focus more on the details of our learning product. Features bring a learner to a product, but it’s the details which make them stay. As we work on each detail with properly aligned microinteraction, we increase the chances of higher retention. You have to be very careful when designing the details of each microinteraction, because if the learner’s attention goes away from your product workflow, then something is wrong with the product design. So, it is always advisable to keep it simple and informed.
By applying microinteractions, you can increase user engagement at a relatively low cost. We all want the best learning outcomes while minimizing cost. If you can create a learning experience that fulfills the end goal, while providing a bit of delight and happiness in the process, you are actually giving something extra to your learner. That makes a learner come back and revisit the learning.
If you follow these five thumb rules for visualizing and implementing microinteractions, you will see a huge impact on your user experience:
Rule 1: Keep them Informed and Engaged
Keep your learner informed and visually engaged; make sure that your learners are not bored.
Rule 2: Keep it Simple
Keep it simple and realistic
Rule 3: Use Animations
Animations should be consistent, clear, smooth and effortless.
Rule 4: Focus on Emotions
Focus on learner emotions.They play a huge role in learner habits and interactions.
Rule 5: Be Predictable
Always be predictable. Learners are used to and tuned with certain set of behavioral patterns and you should never change long-established patterns. (Example: Red color is used for cross mark and green color for tick mark.)
Here are six examples that will help you understand microinteractions better. You will also be able to evaluate the difference between using and not using microinteractions in digital learning.
1. UI Navigation: You can see the example and notice the differences. You can notice that “with microinteractions” examples help learners informed and engaged about the interaction. It is simple and predictable, and has emotions and animation.
2. Interactive buttons: Only changing the colors doesn’t help. Now, we are working towards making things more meaningful and simpler for the learner.
3. Scroll bar: You can identify the differences in both the design and its details.
4. Animations: A meaningful animation can help us to engage our learner and can add great value to the learning.
5. Hyperlinks: This is the best example of letting our users know that they are moving away from the current screen or browser tab.
6. Pop-ups: With the help of pop-ups, we can create higher engagement.
At Tesseract Learning, microinteractions are a vital part of the digital learning design process. I hope this article gave you an idea on how to use microinteractions in digital learning. It guides you to design better digital learning that will help you engage your learner and meet your mandate.
Meanwhile, if you have any specific queries, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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