How Important are UX Microinteractions for eCommerce?

You might not realize it, but you likely begin and end each day with a microinteraction - at least if you use an alarm to wake up every morning.

Before going to bed, those who use their smartphones as alarm clocks will slide the switch for their desired wake up time on with one single finger movement to activate the alarm. When it begins to ring in the morning, they will use the same sliding finger movement to turn it off again. 

Both of these small movements are examples of microinteractions, or moments that accomplish one small task with one small movement.

Even if you still use a physical alarm clock, you engage in similar microinteractions, which probably take the form of flipping a switch to prepare your clock to wake you up the following morning and pushing a button to end the dreadful noise when it accomplishes that task. Throughout the day, you’ll continue to have innumerable interactions like this.

In short, microinteractions are everywhere, but when they’re good and simple, you hardly notice them at all.

User Experience and Sales

Quality microinteractions are becoming extremely important for every website and mobile application as design starts prioritizing more human elements. Yet microinteractions are especially essential for eCommerce sites, where every minute counts and the user’s experience on the site translates directly to sales. If an eCommerce site takes too long to guide the user, a potential buyer, through its store or confuses them in any way, they’ll put the credit card down and move onto a new site.

With the help of microinteractions, even eCommerce sites with the best navigation can convert visits to sales better and lessen the likelihood of losing potential buyers. But before getting into this, let’s back up for a second and talk about microinteractions and what they actually do.

Simply put, microinteractions are single moments of communication that help users flow through the design of a site or mobile application. They are the moments where the user is accomplishing one single task, whether that task is changing the volume, swiping right or left on a potential date, or pushing a button to add an item to their shopping cart.

As for basic functioning, the ideas behind microinteractions are relatively simple: A trigger initiates a microinteraction. The microinteraction rules determine what happens next, while feedback lets the user know what is happening. Finally, loops and modes determine the meta-rules of the microinteraction.

These moments might not seem like much, but they can mean everything to your user's experience with your product. Microinteractions are often the difference between a site or app that users love and one that users tolerate.

If done correctly, microinteractions can make your users’ lives easier, more fun, and more interesting. They give you the chance to delight your user, and thus ensure their repeated patronage. After all, who doesn’t love a cute animation or a quippy joke when completing a boring form or task?

But let’s put fun aside and talk business. For, eCommerce sites, microinteractions are especially important for retaining customers and making checkout processes clearer and easier.

It can be a fatal mistake if web developers and UX designers choose to ignore microinteractions, so when you’re scouring UX portfolios, be sure to keep an eye out for designers who recognize the need to implement stellar microinteractions.

After all, microinteractions can provide valuable instructions, feedback, and action outlets for the user, and even if it’s not something your users will be able to pinpoint, they’ll definitely notice if fun and seamless microinteractions are missing.

In his book Microinteractions, Dan Saffer discusses how these tiny details typically serve essential functions like communicating feedback or the result of an action, accomplishing an isolated, individual task, manipulating a setting, or preventing user error.

Simplicity in eCommerce

For eCommerce sites, an important example of an integral microinteraction might be an animation that confirms an item is added to a shopping cart, a pull down refresh to load new items, or an underline that indicates that the user can click on an item category.

The best and most basic microinteraction, however, is simply pushing a button, which gives the gratification of completing an action or activating a function. Microinteractions like these work because they are essentially human, and they appeal to the user’s natural desire for acknowledgment.

They give the user immediate feedback, provide valuable instructions, gratify the user with visual rewards, and meet subconscious expectations that users don’t even know they have.

Luckily, eCommerce sites offer many instances where pushing a button is helpful, and often necessary. Making your eCommerce site stand out by experimenting with color, type style, or animations to spice up these integral microinteractions can significantly improve your user’s tedious shopping experience and help them engage with your site in ways they might not even recognize.

Once you have these essentials down, you can start getting creative. Could your site integrate animations into shopping cart additions? How can you leverage color changes to guide your users to the category they want to access? Could a small buzz alert users if their item is about to go out of stock?

In sum, when you’re considering eCommerce site design trends for 2016, don’t forget to give top-tier microinteractions some significant thought and effort. There’s no better way to improve your eCommerce site’s UX than by making every interaction less machine and more human.

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