B2B Creativity

December 19, 2013

Designing for emotion: The power of microinteractions

By Helen No comments

Everyone wants to engage with their audience, to inspire, build trust, and grow a relationship with customers. The benefits are obvious – just look at the success of Apple, and their fanatical and highly loyal following.

To engage an audience, you need to provoke an emotional reaction, and preferably a positive one. You need to please or delight them. This is always easier for big projects with big budgets and big ideas, but what about the smaller, perhaps more everyday interactions people have with your brand? Could you benefit from taking the time to bring a bit more creativity and emotion into these experiences?

Designing for emotion
There’s a growing pool of research, opinion and discussion bubbling up around the web at the moment which recommends investing that little bit of extra time and effort to make the smaller, more regular microinteractions people have with your brand just that little bit more engaging. Ezra Fishman and Alyce Currier explain the potential rewards in their insightful blog post:

“Every person who encounters your brand can be an advocate and source of referrals. Instead of watching lost leads leak out of the funnel forever, an audience-centered approach converts everyone we “meet” into fans. The collective power of this audience cloud is enormous—and feeds the funnel.”

Raising the bar
We always strive to make sure that the things we design and build are functional, reliable and usable. All well and good, but none of this lends itself to creating a really positive, memorable emotional feeling about a brand.

Imagine for a moment that you are in the market for a new smartphone. You hunt around online for customer reviews and come across this…

“It works. It’s usable.”

Really, that’s it? Oh. That’s probably not going to convince you to part with your money. This is something you’re going to interact with every day. Wouldn’t it be nice if it did more than just function? Now consider you found this instead…

Much better! Something that’s usable as well as “totally awesome”. Congratulations on your new phone.

So, how and where can you start to apply this thinking to the things your audience interact with every day? How about tackling something that nobody likes doing, but is absolutely unavoidable – the online form.

Lend a helping hand
No one feels great about having to fill out yet another online form. Drop out rates tend to be painfully high, and yet there are potentially hundreds of little ways to improve the experience, winning yourself bonus points along the way for doing so, and hopefully reducing drop outs.

It’s a good idea to ask yourself why the user is there, and what you’ve tasked them with, and create little shortcuts and actions to make each hoop you’re asking them to jump through just that little bit lower to the ground.

Here are three examples of the ways you could implement some of these improvements.

Provide the right tools for the job
Did you know that there are different kinds of keyboards you can invoke for iOS users that make it much easier for them to enter different types of information like email addresses, phone numbers and URLs?

If your users can see that you understand that this form might be a pain, and have tried to help them out, they’ll feel more positive about it and, by extension, you. They might even forgive you those extra few fields you threw in to squeeze out just a little more data!

Barely even usable, never mind delightful. People dislike trying to decipher squiggly meaningless nonsense, and the error rate is shockingly high. An awful lot of companies have shrugged their shoulders and accepted this as a necessary evil. Not Letterboxd though, who’ve instead opted for a simple and fun human-centred approach.

letterboxd – Uses famous movie quotes as their Captcha during sign up.

Can we email you?
Often the last input on a form, yet the most important to marketers: the email opt in/out checkbox. There’s a temptation to sneakily pre-check it and make it small so users might not notice it, or make it difficult to understand whether checking it means opting in or opting out, and hoping most people get it wrong. But trying to be a little sneaky about it is not going to make your users feel good, and could undo all the positive emotion created by the rest of the little microinteraction improvements into which you’ve put so much time and effort.

Trent Walton recently posted this interesting thought about his experience of such interactions:

What if already checked email newsletter boxes buried deep within [forms] online were replaced with big “Can we email you?” buttons, or unsubscribe links were as large as the main call to action? By all means, offer discounts and incentives but do it in a way where you’re opening every possible door to customers rather than trying to barge in on theirs.


He recommends considering these interactions in the context of real life:

If I call you without prior warning you’d expect me to be polite and say something to the effect of, “Hi, it’s Trent. Have I caught you at a bad time?” Common courtesy requires that we assume first that we are inconveniencing others unless we’re told otherwise, showing respect for their time and attention.


Get inspired

There are plenty of resources around the web for learning more about microinteractions.

Check out this infographic
(http://microinteractions.com/downloads/Microinteractions_QuickRef.pdf) for a quick reference guide, or head on over to http://littlebigdetails.com for a wealth of inspiring ideas and delightful touches that could really help inject some positive emotion into the microinteractions on your site.