I just finished reading an excellent book written by Dan Saffer titled Microinteractions: Designing with Details.
Dan defines microinteractions, as the smallest details that delight customers and keep them coming back to the software, or the app, or the web page, or a particular smartphone or tablet, or even the physical appliances we use every day.
Dan writes that:
“the difference between a product we love and a product we just tolerate are often the microinteractions we have with it.”
He also says that:
“Products that we love show an attention to detail; the beautiful curves, the satisfying click, the understandable mental model.”
He continues in his book saying that:
“by making seemingly inconsequential moments into instances of pleasure, there’s a joy in tiny things that are beautiful and work well.”
Every time you change a setting Dan writes, sync your data or devices, set an alarm, pick a password, turn on an appliance, log in, set a status message, or favorite or like something, you are engaging with a microinteraction.
Saffer believes that microinteractions are everywhere, in the devices we carry, the appliances in our house, the apps on our phones and desktops, even embedded in the environments we live and work in.
The book is an excellent read and it made me think about my own ‘microinteractions experiences’ in the desktop software, mobile apps and devices I use every day.
My epiphany after reading the book is that microinteractions is the big difference between loving or tolerating a product and whether we realize it or not, every time we praise a product, we do so because we have found enough microinteractions in that product.
While reading this book, I was also beta testing Articulate Studio ’13, and then suddenly I understood why so many people rave about Articulate products, it’s the microinteractions felt throughout the entire customer experience, from the way the products are built, sold, used by the customers, and supported by the community.
Articulate doesn’t just think about the people who will be using their products, they also think a lot about the learners, who will consume the experience and that in my humble opinion is what make their product stand out from the competition.
Today I want to list some of the microinteractions I really enjoy in the brand new Articulate Studio ’13
1. New Microinteractions for Learners
While most Rapid e-Learning vendors focus mostly on improving features that help Instructional Designers (IDs) create eLearning, Articulate also focuses on improving the Learner’s experience when taking a course.
Unified Player — The new unified player in Presenter ’13 may seem inconsequential to the casual observer, but I think it’s a big deal.
In previous versions of Articulate Studio, it used to be that when Learners came across an Engage interaction inside a Presenter course, they were presented with a number of navigation options (i.e. a player for the Engage interaction, inside the main Presenter player), as illustrated here:
In then new Articulate Presenter ’13 software, the experience for the Learner is seamless with a single, unified player, regardless of how many engage interactions you have in your courses, as illustrated here:
When you added quizzes into Presenter 09 from Quizmaker ’09, things got even more cumbersome, because now the Learners were confronted with even more navigation options, which led to cognitive overload, as illustrated here:
In the new Articulate Presenter ’13 software, the experience for the Learner is seamless with a single, unified player, regardless of how many quizzes you have in your courses. Now you simply have a submit button and all the individual questions in the quiz are now rolled into the main outline section in the Presenter player, as illustrated here.
2. Microinteractions in Smart Characters
To work with ‘Characters‘ in Articulate Studio ’13, and to compare the functionality to how other Rapid e-Learning tools have implemented this functionality, is to understand the genius behind the people who build this software.
Take the ‘Actors’ feature in Adobe Captivate for example, they are simply static images that you add just like any other image. However if you later realize you need the same character but with a different expression or pose, you literally have to delete the one you inserted originally and then look for another image that conveys the new expression and pose and worse yet, if you previously attached any interaction to it, you have to redo that work, too.
Not so in Presenter ’13, you simply select the character you have previously inserted, and in the edit box, you can change expressions, poses and even change the character all together and whatever interaction you had previously added is preserved throughout the process. This shows how carefully and well thought-out each feature is implemented by Articulate.
3. Microinteractions in Publishing to HTML5 and iPad
As someone who focuses on mobile learning design for clients, I appreciate the work Articulate is doing around enabling Studio ’13 customers to publish beyond Flash. With Studio ’13, Presenter is now on par with Articulate Storyline, which introduced the ability to publish to HTML5, as well as a native iPad app that Learners can use to consume eLearning courses. In my tests, the iPad app works incredibly well and the courses are rendered identically to their desktop counterpart. As I said in my review of Storyline, I’d like to see Articulate continue their mobile work and expand to other mobile platforms beyond the iPad.
4. Microinteractions in Device-Shifting for Learners
Here’s another little feature that may not get much love by other reviewers, but one I think it’s extremely critical to the mobile times we live in, namely the ability for Learners to resume a course, exactly where they left off as they shift from device to device. I believe that more and more, we are constantly interacting in an ecosystem of screens and features like these will help us create and deliver great learning experiences, that will work on multiple screens.
5. Microinteractions in Articulate Replay
In addition to Presenter, Engage and Quizmaker, the new Articulate Studio ’13 now also includes a new product called Articulate Replay.
With Replay you can add screencasts to your courses using your webcam, as well as various multimedia objects. This enables you to add a nice “personal” touch to your screencasts by recording yourself via a webcam. The product includes a number of ease-to-use features to enhance your final video. For example you can display both your webcam and screencast, or toggle between them at any time. You can also add lower thirds to highlight you as the presenter. This is a superb little app that I plan on using for my Blog and YouTube and with my clients.
6. Microinteractions in the new Quizmaker ’13
The new Quizmaker ’13 is a pleasure to work in, thanks to a major redesign by Articulate. For example you can now author quizzes in a single window and switch between questions using the new tabbed-based interface. There’s a whole new set of question types called ‘freeform’ questions, which allows you to add interactivity like drag-and-drop assessments.
Here’s a drag-and-drop question I did in about 10 minutes as I was testing the software:
7. Microinteractions in the new Engage ’13
The new Engage ’13 also includes a ton of user experience improvements like the ability to add text, multimedia, and image content to your interaction all in one simplified window. Articulate has also added the following 10 brand new interactions in Engage: Accordion, Image Zoom, Bullet board, labeled panel, checklist, media panel, conversation, quick choice, Folders and Tabbed Image.
There’s a lot to like about the new, updated products in Articulate Studio ’13 and once again, it’s clear just how much Articulate is committed to making life easier not just for e-Learning Designers, but also for Learners, who will be taking the courses.
I think it’s pretty remarkable the ease with which anyone can turn a PowerPoint deck into a beautifully displayed iPad course, complete with characters, drag-and-drop assessments and screencasts in just hours, perhaps even minutes.
Having said that, I highly recommend Articulate Studio 13!
If there are other microinteractions you like in Articulate Studio ’13, that I may have missed, please chime using the comments below.