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  • Writer's pictureGary Dickson

Designing Micro-Interactions in a Sweeping Parallax Landscape

This morning I re-read this little article —

I was reminded of how the more things change the more they stay the same -- well... kind -of. We put different names on them and develop different sets of tools. 13 years ago I remember endless discussions of designing small "moments" and how amazingly impactful those moments could be on the users experience. It seems the tools are catching up and introducing the same notion to younger designers.

It also struck me that the contrasts in scale are so encouraging. A few years ago we began to see the use of parallax scrolling to sometimes create a feeling of a somewhat landscape types of space. At the time I thought it was pretty cool but had reservations about whether or not it would be something that lasted and/or found a useful place in interaction design. Well it's still here and I do think I'm seeing more and more how it can be used in an appropriate way.

I must say that it makes me smile seeing now this spectrum with possibilities from micro-interactions on one end and parallax scrolling on the other. On a systems level, it's not really anything new. Using these two concepts together makes a great deal of sense. The parallax scrolling can be used to create a subtle, active, deliberate context in an environment this often very static and stale. The micro-interactions become minute leverage points that, as in systems thinking, can bring profound change to the behaviour of the larger system (and profound change to the experience that the user has).

I'm still skeptical. Perhaps it's my old age that when I see tools that offer features such as these my initial enthusiasm quickly decays into crotchety old man cynicism. Will designers misuse their designerly powers to wield these tools irresponsibly? Or will they act wisely and move us towards the design utopia that my being ever aches for? If history holds true it could be neither. The internet promised a world of democratized, free authorship rewarded with micro-payments — we do see a little of that today but... queue the huge tech corporations and now, well, only if they are agreeable or you're willing to pay their dues. Early digital design tools similar to Adobes creative suite promised to put powerful design tools in the hands of the entire world — unfortunately, it turns out that most people are really bad designers. Digital cameras share a similar story. This is, in part, why I am so passionate about design education. Powerful tools need capable hands to wield them if we can ever hope to close in on that design utopia that I continue to dream of.

Don't get me wrong, I love that access to these powerful tools is so ubiquitous. It allows nearly anyone to try things out and that is truly a beautiful thing. It's my hope that we can develop powerful designers who can wield these powerful tools and affect positive change in the designed world.

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