John Oxton-King

Using micro-interactions for an optimal experience.

When it comes to User Experience (UX) design, we talk a lot about ‘mobile first’ and ‘content first’ but, for some time now here at Torpedo, our UX team has been focusing on ‘ethics first’ design. What we mean by this is thinking carefully about the impact the things we design and the interactions we create will have on a user’s emotional decision making. This is particularly relevant when we ask them to provide us with personal data.

By using UX effectively, it is possible to help customers understand the value of parting with their personal data, and to reassure them through the quality of their interactions with us that we care about their privacy and we will treat their data with the utmost care.

Consumers are increasingly aware their data is valuable

Media coverage of the controversy surrounding the way Cambridge Analytica gathered and used Facebook data is just one example of how the public are increasingly aware that their data is valuable and, in the wrong hands, has the potential to cause them harm. We should start by asking ourselves what possible negative impact we could have on a user’s wellbeing by asking them to provide data.

The recent discussions on the requirements and impact of GDPR has also brought the issue of how we handle customers’ personal data sharply into focus. GDPR is designed to help users take control of their data, and may feel disruptive now, but as the dust settles and we all adjust to the new rules, there may be opportunities to engage with your customers that could enhance trust and develop a better relationship with them.

The importance of micro-interactions

In UX we often talk about micro-interactions. These are small moments when a user interacts with a digital product to achieve a single task. Facebook’s Like button, the Snooze button on your phone’s alarm, notifications from your favourite apps: these are all micro-interactions. When we design them we always aim to delight and, if possible, surprise the user. Getting someone’s consent to use their data in a certain way should also be viewed as a micro-interaction and as a potential opportunity.

It might be a stretch to imagine we can surprise and delight a user with such a mundane task but what if we look at it from the angle that our aim is to inform and educate, to reassure and connect? By designing a simple, clear and highly informative micro-interaction around requesting customers’ data we can start to tell a great story about our business: “We care about you, we care about your data, we are a company who cares about our users and our customers.” Which would surely make a refreshing change for the customer and surprise them in a good way.

Effective micro-copy gives your customers a good reason to agree

The copy we write for micro-interactions asking customers’ consent to use their data needs to serve three purposes:

  1. User experience – we must make it easy for them to understand the terms, so they can make choices that are best suited to them.
  2. Business goals – user data is an important basis for business activity, so we want as many users as possible to give us their consent.
  3. Legal compliance – we have to comply with what is and isn’t considered as consent and what it means to be transparent, according to legal counsel.

The micro-copy we write around requesting personal data is really just another type of call to action: we need to focus on giving our users a good reason to agree. If we can persuade them clearly using everyday language that their lives will become better in a small way, there’s a high chance that they will act. We don’t need to promise our customers the earth or set unrealistic expectations: just suggest that something will become easier to deal with, more efficient or less complicated. They need to believe that by handing over their data, their future experiences with the product or service will improve.

Using micro-interactions to enhance customer relationships

Here are some ways we could enhance our relationship with our customers by taking a little more care around privacy messaging:

  • To encourage people to give us their phone number we could explain that doing so will make it easier to schedule a delivery at the most suitable time for them or send a last-minute update.
  • When them asking for birth date, we could provide them with a birthday perk or explain it will help us to deliver an experience more suitable for their age.
  • If asking for an email address, it’s best to promise to only send emails that will benefit them in some small way – such as offering a daily recipe to help them decide what to eat.

 Some useful principles for writing micro-copy around privacy and consent

The GDPR requires us to be unambiguous, accessible and transparent so that we provide users with a real choice based on their full understanding. We can do this by converting legal speak into everyday clear and simple language. We should also phrase the text in our micro-interactions in the language people actually use.

The following ideas may also be helpful: 

  • Put yourself in the shoes of the audience/user – would it make sense to you and would you feel confident parting with your personal data?
  • Read everything several times and make sure there’s one simple meaning, that nothing is too sophisticated or over-complicated.
  • Break down complex sentences to a few short ones, each with its own single simple message.
  • Avoid confusing structures like double negatives: ‘Are you sure you don’t want us to not use your information?’
  • Don’t use phrases that sound threatening: ‘If you don’t consent…’
  • When possible, give examples of specific pieces of information you will be gathering and how you will use it.
  • Use language that gives control back to the users.

Micro-interactions are commonly overlooked by many organisations but, by demonstrating this attention to detail, you can clearly convey the message that your company cares about its customers’ data. It’s an approach that conveys a real commitment to service excellence and will foster lasting trust.

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