It seems as the web matures, we do less and less “from scratch” big projects. Projects that solve a new consumer need or address a major system issue are fewer and farther between. Now, we get a lot more of the “update and revise a currently successful site” project. Making updates and fixing flaws that move the bar a percent or two in the positive direction. This evolution, as well as my years in the business, has caused my UX philosophy to evolve over the past few years almost to the molecular level. Because of this, for a while now I have started looking at UX as a series of simplified interactions on a molecular level, that when complied together as a whole, leaves a user/consumer with a more human and satisfying experience.
This level of micro thinking has only grown more valuable since apps and mobile have taken off. Now with gestural UIs, touch screens, animation and feedback, we can take this experience to a new level. Places we never dreamed of 10 years ago.
I found a book awhile back that fed my urge to keep pushing this micron level of thinking in my work. Microinteractions by Dan Saffer. This entire book is inspired by his favorite Eames quote “The details are not the details. They make the design.” I completely agree in the consumer web design world. The details get lost in the large scale and speed of sites built in the past few years. Going back during phase 2 or 3, page by page on an almost atomic level, finding and fixing the forgotten micro flows, smoothing them out, adding a sense of tactile or humanity to this UX pays off in the end. Added together over the larger user experience, they build into a broader success for the consumer and also the client.
Saffer takes this even further in his book. Microinteractions are just one of many lenses for good design. But one that is growing as the consumer expects products of all kinds to become “smarter.” And take that microinteraction steps further. Make it smart. Make it adapt based on user behavior. All the while speaking human.
This has been one of the better design books I’ve read in years. Spend a few years of your life deep on the inside of currently successful sites and you will quickly lose your assumption that even some of the good designers know the basics enough to do the little things well. On top of time to market and scale of project, the small details get overlooked much too often.
Apps and mobile are bringing this back to the front burner in today’s world. Next time you use either and have a great or a bad experience, look deeper than the final big picture interaction and you will find out why one was a more enjoyable human experience, and the other was a kick in the head. It’s in the details.