Hey Google, Where's My Free Interaction?

I recently read a great article by Chris Noessel at Cooper Journal. Chris writes about the playful little “twitches” that many of us have as we navigate and explore a system. He calls these “free interactions”.

Whare are “free interactions”?

Chris says: “They’re “free” because they have no consequences. They affect only the interface and don't touch content. It's interactive because there is some small, quick cause and effect”.

Three types of free interactions

Here’s a few items from Chris’ list of free interactions:
  1. Snapback pages – In Safari on an iPhone, when you use your finger to scroll above the top of a page or below the bottom of a page, it pulls away from the edge of the browser. When you lift your finger up, the page snaps back into place. It doesn't do anything more than that. It's just a fun little thing that people like to play with.
  2. Flying numbers - in Quordy on an iPhone tapping single letters sets off a little animation of the tapped letter flying into the corner. Since there is no consequence to doing this, it becomes something to do as you look for new words.
  3. De-re-selecting – some people use their mouse to repeatedly select and deselect text in web browsers as they read pages online. This is absolutely crazy making for onlookers, but really satisfying for the user.

Hey! That’s what I do

It’s that last one that I found really interesting because I am guilty of this. Whenever I’m reading text on the screen, I always use my mouse to select and deselect text as I read it. And yes, people who might be sitting with me at the time, find it REALLY annoying…but I love doing it.

Designing free interactions

Chris says “I suggest that designers begin to include one free interaction in their designs to enable the channeling of energy and simple expression.” I think it’s a great idea and I’d like to add an extra thought to it.

Include support for existing free interaction conventions in your designs

I recently started using Google Reader (I defected from Bloglines). It’s a great RSS aggregator but it has one disappointing flaw: it doesn’t support the de-re-selecting that I’m so fond of. You see, in Google Reader, when I try to select the text as I read, the screen “jumps” – the heading of the blog post I am reading jumps to the top of the reading pane. And then I feel confused: “Huh? What happened just now? Something moved? Why did it move?” I’m not used to my playful little “twitch” of selecting text as I read having any impact whatsoever upon the interface. So I feel a little annoyed. I don’t want to change something that I love doing so much just because I’m now using Google Reader. I want them to change Google Reader instead ;)

Here’s a little video which shows my interaction with Google Reader:

Google Reader Doesn't Support My Twitch from Suze Ingram on Vimeo.


Adski said...

I'm noticing this even more in Feedly, where hitting the down arrow when previewing an entry closes it instead of scrolling - wha?

As an aside, Feedly brought the j and k keyboard shortcuts across, so i'm thinking the spacebar, m and s keys will be there also.. not true.

New paradigms, new challenges - i'm not surprised a few things get missed when designing a completely new interface like a feed reader.

Alex said...

I have the same twitch. In nytimes.com, it is extra annoying because double clicking a word pulls up a dictionary entry!