The devil is in the details

The power of interactive design

We mentioned in a previous blog post about looking at every interaction as an opportunity to deliver your brand’s message. Every good brand worth its salt knows that every time a user interacts with their product or service, is a time that they can be leaving a positive impression on a potential customer.

It’s a common misconception that interaction is something that can only be designed for on screens, in a digital context. This isn’t true, in fact some interactions that spark the most joy in people are in physical products or packaging, where people can feel a tactile sensation with their sense of touch, not just their sense of sight.

Designing for people’s senses probably sounds like a lofty idea, and maybe even a little cheesy. However it is something that we aim for when a client comes to us with a new project, especially considering the nature of our clients. People like Heston Blumenthal, Incognito, and The River Test Distillery put so much effort and craft into what they do. We wouldn’t be doing a good job if we didn’t consider every sense that a user has, after all, that’s what those clients are doing every day.

Let’s take a closer look at something that a lot of people will come into contact with over the next few weeks. At Christmas thousands of people will probably unwrap and unbox a brand new iPhone, and throughout that process they will be immersed in the apple experience. The minimal design of the box, the feel of it opening up, the subtle sound of the protective film peeling off the screen, the blank white space on the inside of the lid. Some people enjoy the experience of opening a new apple product so much that they’ve even gone to great lengths to attempt to recreate the smell of it in a candle. This may sound funny, but the fact that people enjoy that process isn’t an accident, the designers at Apple have put a lot of effort into making sure people enjoy it. Nothing is left to chance, and that is the power of well designed interaction, both on screen and off.

So how do we go about it?

Designing and building interactions are where the painstaking craft of our job really takes place. But first we need to go back a few stages. To start with we really get under the skin of our clients, we learn about why they do what they do, and what motivates them to create their products or services.

It goes without saying it’s important to experience the product or service they’re selling. We’ve got a bottle of Mayfly Gin that we’ve all made plenty of drinks from, and we’re lucky enough to have been to Incognito more than once to experience the attention to detail and showmanship that goes into creating that adventurous atmosphere.

When you get a good grasp of a clients needs on this level, that’s when you can start thinking of how to represent that in their design and marketing.

Technically speaking

A lot can be done with very little. All of the button animations on our websites are created using just CSS with no extra graphics needed. This means they’re very lightweight and don’t add anything to page load speed, which is always a consideration when adding extra flourishes to a website. It’s no good having a fancy video and animations if it can’t be loaded on a phone when your user is just on a 3G connection.

This one we built for Solis Energy Solutions for example was actually fairly straightforward to design and build, and adds no extra load time to the web pages. But the impact is huge when a user experiences it, so it was definitely worth that little extra time.

Working as a team

Good team communication is key to making well designed interactions. At the core of a beautiful button animation for example is a designer and developer working together perfectly, and the success of that is based on good communication, and the ability to be honest.

After that is a repetitive process of testing and changing until it’s absolutely perfect and works every time, at every screen size, and on every device. Lots of patience is absolutely vital at this stage, this is where things can get missed. Testing needs to be thorough, or there’s the possibility that you’re going to leave your site looking sloppy to a potential customer. None of our sites go live until they’ve been rigorously tested, by us, our clients and anyone else we can show them to.

Hopefully this has been helpful and has shed some light on how we design powerful animations.

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