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Former Member

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a BayCHI meet-up (the largest Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction within the Association for Computing Machinery) at the PARC no less (where the GUI was born).  This particular meet-up had Interaction Designer Dan Saffer speak about microinteractions, those little details that delight and happen at the micro level.  He illustrated several examples of microinteractions within software that you are probably familiar with today, for example:

  • The xylophone ringtone on an iPhone
  • The status message on a Dropbox upload that tells you to ‘Grab a Snackers’ if it’s a long wait
  • A form that prepopulates your First Name based on the Email Address you supplied in the field before it

His premise was that if you care about user experience you must pay attention to these microinteractions, likening microinteractions to a pebble in a shoe --no matter how nice the shoe is, you won’t care until you get the pebble out.  He also provided a framework that you can categorize these microinteractions within (Triggers, Rules, Feedback, Loops and Modes).  I won’t go into the details related to these categories (for that I would suggest reading Dan’s book on microinteractions), however I do want to touch on the Feedback category, specifically related to his advice on ‘speaking human’. 

My understanding is that feedback microinteractions occur as an almost subtle response (i.e. feedback) to user interaction with software.  Have you ever tried to click and drag an item from one area to another but a prohibition sign appears, giving feedback that you cannot perform that action?  This is an example of a microinteraction feedback.  So what does it mean to give microinteraction feedback by ‘speaking human'? 

Think about personal interactions you’ve had.  How do you let someone know that you’re pleased with something they’ve done?  Perhaps you smile?  We can also use this human-speak to create a feedback microinteraction within software.  Dan gave the example of using the happy face :smile: or sad face symbols :sad: on screens where something has or hasn’t occurred.  Language can also play a large role.  How many times have we all read bizarre error messages that do not have any meaning to us?  What if we used ‘human speak’ to convey these messages?  It may not stop the error from happening, but the effect of it on the user may be lessened (i.e. instead of wanting to smash my keyboard, some humorous expression may stop this inclination and at least garner a smirk).

This human-speak is also another great example of what we might classify in the Design Thinking sphere as an example of showing understanding or empathy for the end user.  It starts by first recognizing that the end users are people – meaning human, and those people produce feelings, thoughts, expressions and actions based upon individual personality and experience.  Now how can the software I interact with guide my behaviour to optimize its performance using subtle queues (or microinteractions) that I innately respond to?  Well we’re well underway with doing just that at SAP with our new SAP Fiori mobile applications launched this week at SAPPHIRENOW.  We are working hard to make sure you do indeed continue to feel human when interacting with our software, so check them out and make sure to share your personal experiences on the SAP User Experience Community