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The Magic is in the Details

Last summer, when Dan Saffer came to Austin IxDA to talk about his latest release, Microinteractions, I was reminded of an experience early in my career that inspired the rallying cry behind the company I now own.

I was around 25 and working as one of the first UXers at an interactive firm when my manager, a sharp and accomplished ad man, saw past my youthful naïvety and advised me on how I could grow my career.

"We'll hire some junior UX resources. You can get out of the details of the work and focus on the big picture."

Sounded like a step up, right? But at home that night, I felt let down. The proposed shift didn't sound like progress to me.

In retrospect, I see that my discomfort with relinquishing the details was rooted in the fact that we were already paying too little attention to them. Under the hood, the complexity of the products we were designing was increasing rapidly. Our development team desperately needed more detail and forethought. And, perhaps most obviously, my average workday was already quite full of people vying to be the one who thought of the next BIG idea; I believed that there was also value in focusing some attention to the small ones.

“Many companies get the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90 percent of the work. And if you just tell all these other people here’s this great idea then of course they can go off and make it happen. And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product.”

— Steve Jobs, via Luke Wroblewski

Looking back on it, I uncovered something about my own values that day. And it wasn't long before I'd begun the gradual transition toward starting the firm now known as Slide UX, a consultancy that proudly specializes in the gap between a great concept and a ready-to-build piece of software. 

With Microinteractions, Saffer suggests that a string of moments so small that they "are typically not on any feature list" determine whether a product is tolerated or beloved.

And we agree. You may not think you have time to think through the details -- but can you afford not to?

NOTE: A printable PDF version of the Microinteractions Cheat Sheet can be found at microinteractions.com.