A flourish. A gesture. A moment. A tiny tip of the hat to human-centered design.

When I saw Jeannie’s TEDX talk on microinteractions, it resonated with me as a human, but also as a professional communicator. Instant reactions to customer experiences can either delight or destroy the customer relationship.

The number one lesson that I learned from Jeannie Walters is that the messages you send to customers and the way that you interact with customers should be intentional, not an afterthought. You can have a beautifully designed product or service, but if the online interactions are broken, you’ve lost a customer. This was captured by her sad but true stories about the error messages (starting with the 404 message) we receive when something doesn’t work.

I came up with a favorite positive microinteraction example about a month ago. Like Anne Reuss, I became obsessed with examples in my daily life. I find it intriguing that all of these tiny, yet powerful interactions make such big impressions.

Because I am a digital marketer, and I can’t help myself, I did what I usually do with a newfound passion. I did research. Grounded in context, and sprinkled with a bit of philosophy, this is what I found.

Magical Experiences exist in the Details

The big things in life are made up of little things. So it is with our daily life experiences.

From an emotional perspective, we think about these experiences as moments; the giggle of a child, a wink of an eye, an unexpected smile, or a V for victory.

In the digital world, this translates to the variety of emoticons and now emoji (those combinations of colons, parentheses and other punctuation that can convey expressions like a smile or a wink) that are used to communicate the essence of how we feel. According to Nick Bilton of the New York Times, Japanese teenagers set the tone for our habits and social trends when it comes to designing symbols for feelings in our digital world.

Dan Saffer, Director of Interaction Design at Smart Design, wrote a book called Microinteractions: Designing with Details, published in May 2013. According to Dan, “Microinteractions are the small pieces of functionality that are inside or around features. They are brief, single use-case moments.”

Smart Design created a quick reference guide for the intentional design of positive microinteractions.

Click to view full size.

Dan designs digital products. His examples range from the mute button on the iPhone, to Facebook’s Like, and Twitter’s Fail Whale, all experiences that create user happiness. In the case of the Fail Whale, it’s a great response to occasional service outages. Another example is David Kelley, founder at IDEO and design thinking innovator, designed microinteractions like Apple’s first mouse and the “Lavatory Occupied” sign that went into Boeing 747s.

The Spicy Microinteraction that Won my Heart

As I explored microinteraction examples, I wanted my experience to reflect some or all of the following:

  • Be fun (like the feeling I get when I use many of the gestures on an iPhone)
  • Be the quickest path to accomplishing a task (like the 30-second option button on my microwave touchpad)
  • Optimize quantity or quality (like the inverted plastic ketchup bottle that stands at attention and makes it easier to empty the contents with a simple squeeze, rather than an irritating shake)

This year, I discovered McCormick’s Pepper Grinders where the grinder is embedded in the cap of the bottle. No longer do I have to keep a separate pepper mill that is not as ergonomically perfect for me. This small-size pepper grinder works when I bring it home from the store!

MicrointeractionsThe microinteraction: the act of twisting the cap with opposite hands. I grab the bottom of the bottle with one hand and simply twist the bottle in opposite directions. Using pepper, which I do often, is a delightful experience, and the size of the bottle is perfect for the size of my hands.

Every chef enjoys the tools of the trade. A sense of accomplishment is amplified by this positive interaction of happily spicing things up!

You can view the microinteraction demonstration (at 2:40) and check out a quick meal prep (6 minutes), called stir-fry garlic basil pasta.