How do microinteractions impact design accessibility?


  • Microinteractions significantly enhance design accessibility by providing intuitive, operable, and understandable cues that align with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 
  • Microinteractions offer essential feedback through visual, auditory, and haptic elements, aiding users with diverse abilities. 
  • Key practices include ensuring microinteractions are keyboard accessible, feature high contrast for visibility, and incorporate meaningful animations with the option for users to disable them. 
  • Timing should accommodate user interaction without causing discomfort. 
  • Regular testing with a varied user base is crucial to maintain accessibility standards and refine these interactive elements effectively.

Detailed answer 

Microinteractions play a significant role in enhancing design accessibility by improving usability and providing intuitive cues to users of varying abilities. 

The importance of accessible microinteractions is grounded in both user experience principles and legal requirements. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which serve as the international standard for web accessibility, emphasize the need for user interface components to be operable, understandable, and robust. Microinteractions play a crucial role in meeting these criteria.

By prioritizing accessibility in microinteractions, we can create inclusive products that empower and delight users, regardless of their abilities. By incorporating visual, auditory, and haptic feedback, we can ensure that our microinteractions are perceivable and understandable to all users. 

Clarity and feedback 

Microinteractions should provide clear, immediate feedback to users, confirming their actions and guiding them through the interface. This is crucial for users with cognitive or visual impairments who rely on clear cues to navigate the application.

Keyboard accessibility 

All microinteractions should be accessible via keyboard, allowing users who cannot use a mouse or touchscreen to perform the same actions. This includes providing clear focus states and ensuring all interactive elements can be reached and activated using the keyboard alone.

Appropriate contrast

Ensuring high contrast between foreground and background colors in microinteractions is crucial for accessibility. This design choice makes it easier for users with color vision deficiency and other impairments, to distinguish elements and understand interactions clearly. 

Meaningful animations

Animations used in microinteractions should have a clear purpose, such as drawing attention to important information or providing visual feedback. It’s important to allow users to disable animations if needed, as they can be distracting or disorienting for some.

Timing and duration

Microinteractions should be quick and responsive, but also there must be sufficient time for users to perceive and interact with them. It’s important to avoid using rapidly flashing or moving elements, which can be triggering for users with seizure disorders.

It’s important to regularly test microinteractions with a diverse group of users, including those with various disabilities, to ensure they are accessible, understandable, and easy to use. Gatheing feedback and iterating on designs based on user insights is crucial. 

❓Questions designers should ask themselves

By asking the right questions, designers can question their decisions, find areas to improve, make sure nothing is overlooked, and reduce mistakes, leading to better, more thoughtful designs. 

  • Are the microinteractions consistent with the overall design language and branding?
  • Do the microinteractions provide clear, immediate feedback for all users?
  • Are the microinteractions accessible via keyboard, with clear focus states?
  • Do animations serve a functional purpose, or could they be distracting?
  • Have we tested the microinteractions with users with various disabilities?
  • Are there customization options for users with specific needs, such as reduced motion settings?

⚠️ Common mistakes to avoid

Learning from your mistakes is important, but many problems can indeed be predicted and avoided. Based on Cieden's collective expertise, we're sharing the most common ones.

  • Overusing animations or transitions, which can be disorienting or triggering for some users.
  • Relying solely on color to convey information, which may not be perceivable to users with color vision deficiencies.
  • Failing to provide alternative text for icons or graphical elements used in microinteractions.
  • Using too short or too long of a delay for timed interactions, making them difficult to perceive or interact with.
  • Neglecting to test microinteractions with a diverse range of users, including those with disabilities.

👥 How to convince stakeholders

One of the most crucial skills for a designer is being able to explain and back up their ideas. If you're having a hard time convincing stakeholders, take a look at our tips to help you communicate better.

  • Emphasize the business benefits: Accessible microinteractions can lead to increased user satisfaction, loyalty, and conversions. By creating an inclusive experience, the application can reach a wider audience and differentiate itself from competitors.
  • Highlight legal obligations: Many countries have laws and regulations that require digital products to be accessible, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States or the European Accessibility Act (EAA) in the European Union. Ensuring accessible microinteractions helps the company meet these legal requirements and avoid potential litigation.
  • Demonstrate ROI: Investing in accessible microinteractions can lead to long-term cost savings. By incorporating accessibility from the start, the company can avoid expensive retrofits and maintain a more efficient development process. Additionally, accessible applications often have better search engine optimization (SEO) and can rank higher in search results.
  • Appeal to corporate social responsibility: Many companies have commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Designing accessible microinteractions aligns with these values and demonstrates the company's dedication to creating a more inclusive digital world.

🤝 Credits

Our content combines the knowledge of Cieden’s designers with insights from industry influencers. Big thanks to all the influencers for sharing awesome content!

The Role of micro-interactions in website design by Jose Hurtado

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