We have all heard the phrase, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”. It’s a common way of letting people know to shrug off the little things and instead, worry about the bigger, more important things.
Great advice. Except when it comes to UX Design. This is when we absolutely have to sweat the small stuff. In this case, the small stuff I’m referring to are micro-experiences: The little things that happen before, during, and after a user engages with a product, website, app, or service.
Human engagement is concerned with the entire experience a person has with our product. This means we focus on questions such as:
- How does a person experience our product from the very beginning?
- What do they see, feel, and think during engagement with our product?
- What happens after they engage? What to they feel? What do they tell others?
These questions can be detailed nuances that are really easy to be glossed over when handling multiple projects, wireframing, user research, information architecture, etc.
Human engagement, however, is all about the small stuff. It’s about the tiny, little things that we experience every day and never really stop to think about until it strikes us as, “Wow, that sure was easy!”, or “How cool that they thought of that!”.
Examples Of Micro-Experiences
We know that human engagement is critical to UX Design success and we know that total engagement is a summation of all the “small” things that take place. So what are these small things?
Say hello to micro-experiences. A few examples:
- Micro-interactions are a great example — they delight a user and make interacting with products more ‘human’.
- Reducing the number of clicks or steps to an end result — We love detail but it’s actually possible to be detailed and minimal at the same time.
- Using pleasing sounds when there are audible components to our products — also, removing sound when not really necessary
- Using empathy-based visuals design — not just placing an image or graphic but placing them to enhance the experience
- Adding or removing little pieces of information tips at each step where our users touch, click, or interact with our product — great for recommended content.
- Not forgetting our users once they interact — how can you keep the experience going after they experience your product?
- Adding in the ability to personalize their experience right within the product that keeps the engagement not only empathetic but 1:1.
None of these examples are earth-shaking or unheard of. We know them. We have experienced them. The challenge, as UX Designers, is that we aren’t always thinking of sweating the small stuff and it’s just a natural human trait to get caught up in other parts of the design process and then focus on our finish line.
How To Introduce Micro-Experiences
We can introduce micro-experiences in a number of ways. One way that comes to mind is including a micro-experience process as a part of the UX Design strategy.
It could be a checklist or set of guidelines that comes into the picture after user research and after sketches and mockups and iteration. If we are working in a Lean UX environment then it needs to be a part of every sprint that takes place beyond user research.
What would these guidelines look like? Here’s a stab at how they might appear in a traditional UX project:
- Are there ways to improve or enhance the user experience prior to, or leading up to, interacting with the product?
- At first interaction with the product, are there ways to empathize, reduce, or add any experiences that might create more value for our target user?
- During interaction at every single step of the user journey, are there ways to better inform? Reduce complexity? Combine functions? Make it less work? Use imagery? Give feedback either using sound or motion or with iconography?
- Have we examined the interactions and interface for every small detail that the user will see? Does it make sense? Does it belong? Can we replace it with something of value? Why is it there?
- When the interaction is over, what did we do to inform the user? What did we do to help them feel pleased by the experience? Did we do too much? Are there ways the interface can help? Did we think through all of the little details of what they might need or want and try to include that? How do we want them to feel?
Note that a lot of these proposed guidelines are questions and they are focused on scrutinizing the small things that are hard to notice at first, but this is why “micro” is so important. They are hardly noticeable yet some of the most important things that make a user experience complete and successful.
What To Do From Here
Everything we deal with in the world of humans/users and experiences changes on a daily basis. Sure, there are some tried and true psychology and heuristic principles, there are even rules for how to deal with text, graphics, fonts, colors, etc.
So we might pose the question: If there are so many rules already written, then why not just follow those and be done?
The answer is that we are designing for users, and rules are just guidelines because users (you and me included) aren’t always predictable. In fact, we are only really predictable and being unpredictable.
What we do know, however, is that we can design for a target audience. We can design for an experience with that target audience and we can continually measure outcomes of that experience. We also know that a true successful experience isn’t one single thing that occurs, it’s a culmination of many little things and those are what users really remember.
The moral of this story is to sweat the small stuff in UX Design. By doing this, we focus on micro-experiences and turn the ordinary into extraordinary; which by all respects gives our fellow humans a memorable journey with even the most mundane of products. When we can achieve that, then we all win.
How would you come up with a set of micro-experience guidelines? What would your list look like?