Microinteractions Can Be Big


“Microinteractions are all around us, from the turning on of an appliance to logging into an online service to getting the weather in a mobile app. They are the single use-case features that do one thing only.” Dan Saffer – (Microinteractions)

How do you know when you have a new notification? How do you turn on a feature? How do you change a setting? Have you ever abandoned a sign-up because it was annoying?

Small details can make the difference between a product that is accepted and one that is appreciated. So how something seemingly so insignificant can play such an important role and how can we design them to make a difference?

The role of Microinteractions

Even if we don’t always deliberately observe them, these little functional and interactive details have a huge impact on the experience that users have with products. They can make engaging with the product easier, more pleasurable or cause frustration among consumers.

In a lot of cases the tiny interactions and their feedback can be a deciding factor whether the thing you use stands out or remains in the sea of mediocrity.

Microinteractions do one single task. When executed well, they can become “Signature moments”. Think of the iconic Facebook Like, or Medium’s Recommend. These are around since products are being built, like the clicking of a physical switch or Microsoft’s Start button. When building a product, often microinteractions are the last things considered to be designed or are totally ignored.


Nowadays we tend to take them for granted but let’s dive into understanding the main roles they have and why are they so important? Products that became indispensable to us have them. The iPhone with its physical home button or Twitter with it’s Tweet button. They usually accomplish a single task, like:

  • turn a feature on/off (share gps location)
  • adjust a setting (volume)
  • connect two devices (allowing WiFi, Bluetooth)
  • create a small piece of content (like a tweet, a comment)

Creating effective, enjoyable microinteractions

So with the basic definition out of the way let’s see what makes a microinteraction great. As Dan Saffer explains, they consist of four important components:


There are two types of triggers:

  • manual trigger – occurs when you interact with the system, like sliding to unlock your phone or interacting with a button
  • system trigger – occurs when a condition or a set of conditions are met, like when you receive a notification


Rules determine what happens when a trigger occurs. They govern how the microinteractions play and decide what can and what cannot be done.


Lets the user know what happened as a response to their action. Rules are invisible to users, so they become understood via the feedback. It should be driven by two needs, what does the user need to know and how frequently does it need to happen.


It determines the meta rules of the microinteraction. Modes should be used casually, when there is a demanding, occasional situation, for example selecting stock ticker symbols in a stock market app or adding a new city in a weather app. It’s a deviation in the rules, not the main task of the microinteraction, but a subtask.

Loops decide for how long the microinteraction continues, if there is repetition of the action and if changes occur over time in the flow.

Microinteraction steps

Always design with having the user in mind. Find those little moments that can become “Signature moments”, tweak them with the help of the microinteraction formula and see how they become more and more interesting.

Well designed microinteraction will delight your users and will give a sense of accomplishment. Help people celebrate those small wins.

Icon credit for switch and light bulb: Creative Stall and Felix Westphal

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