5 Tips for designing with micro-moments in mind

November 21, 2017

Everybody seems so busy nowadays. Or at least that’s how I feel. Our busy lives mean we now spend more time doing… well what exactly?

Everybody seems so busy nowadays. Or at least that’s how I feel. Our busy lives mean we now spend more time doing… well what exactly?

The irony is, in recent decades our ‘busy’ lives are not actually as a result of an increase in our physical work-load and if anything, thanks to modern appliances and working practises we actually work less.

Unless you are one of those super organised people or someone who is not easily distracted, our lives can often seem fragmented as our focus shifts, with our attention meandering from one task to another.

With the proliferation of mobile devices and the capabilities of the services on those devices mean our ability to dedicate quality time to real-world tasks is becoming difficult. Like a balancing act, our focus is constantly shifting from these real-world physical tasks to digital or virtual ones.

Ironically, here’s a cat gif distraction that superbly sums up my point.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Ironically, here’s a cat gif distraction that superbly sums up my point.                                

As designers we fail to fully appreciate just how fragmented our lives have become.

The alarm goes off in the morning, you check your emails. In to the bathroom, how’s that ebay bid going? Jump in the shower, your brain is full of the things you have to do today. The clothes iron heats up, you check your Instagram. The kettle is boiling, quick glance at the news headlines and the weather forecast. Feed the cat. Speak to your family. Leave for work.

Before you know it, you have used your phone 7 or 8 times to check your go-to apps and websites, oh and its only 7.30am. Throughout the day we embark on several digital journeys, we have them running in parallel, some with different timescales to others, all with different goals, as soon as one ends another starts.

Some of these journeys are taken with a poor internet connection or no connection at all, others are done while doing something different entirely. A few seconds on one task, a minute on another, your focus split between your device and the real-world task you are doing.

The first few minutes of a typical day.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The first few minutes of a typical day.                                


Our fragmented lives mean people are inevitably using digital services in ways we may not have seen before, so as designers and makers should we consider the impact this has on our touch points with technology and our cognitive ability to cope with completing our goals. These in-between moments and the activities we complete within them are often referred to as ‘micro-moments’.

In a recent study it was discovered some of us touch our smart devices up to 5,427 times a day and yet how often do designers truly consider the frequency of visits, the duration or the situation the visit was undertaken.

To design a compelling digital experience, we need to consider:

Optimising for micro-moments

The advertising industry has already begun to capitalise on this micro-moment behaviour. Take searching for a holiday as an example, the next app you open after your few seconds of searching will likely feature your destination, hotel and the latest booking prices. Even if you forget you searched for something in the first place, one of your many social feeds will likely remind you until you carry out their desired outcome.

How apps start and what they immediately show you is becoming increasingly important. Whether they open straight into a feed of content, wait to load new content or show you the things you’ve missed. Every detail of those first few seconds has to be considered, especially as we are never sure how long visitors are going to stick around.

Google’s open source AMP project looks at ways content can be optimised across devices and is a great example of how seriously the big players are taking efficiency of delivery. It means web pages published in the AMP format load near instantly for the user.
The time between having the idea to look for something and actually finding the information you need is now practically indistinguishable. But it’s not only the time to return content that is important, a service’s ability to retain your state between sessions and then react to your change in circumstance and context is becoming increasingly key.

Location aware services go some way to contextualise the visit by enabling products to be more intelligent with how they serve their users. These include things you probably experience currently such as tailoring a user experience based on a location, tailoring content to be aware of location, showing directions from your current location or tagging user submitted content such as a geo-tag on a photo.

We often know where the user is and what they’ve previously looked at, but how can we make services even more helpful to their needs? How can we fully serve goals within a shorter time frame or across multiple short periods, making every second of the few seconds we have result in a meaningful interaction?

At Furthermore our process now considers the following aspects of a user’s journey, ensuring micro-moments are at the core:


The next time you are sketching a user journey or conversion through an e-commerce flow, take a moment to consider the bits in-between your UI. The breaks, the pauses, the lost connectivity. Think about the best possible user experience for each of the scenarios and try to build a least one into your next product.

Don’t worry, if you’re not a designer or a developer, the best thing you can do is provide feedback to those who are, so they can make their experience for you even better. Make sure to tell them as much as possible when you do, how you felt at the time, what you were doing and where you were.

I would love to hear your thoughts as I’m sure there are things others look out for when developing for fragmented journeys.

This insight was brought to you by our managing partner Steve Johnson.

This post was originally posted on Medium, follow us here.

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