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The Need For Speed: Microsessions in UX/UI Design

justsharkie profile image /*Sharkie*/ ・5 min read

Look, it may sound backwards, but the less time a user spends on your app, the better.

Usually we design thinking a user will be spending a decent amount of time on our apps/sites, and try to make it look appealing. But when we start looking at it in a mobile context, it's really about usability, efficiency, and speed. Users want to do what they're trying to do quickly, without obstacles in the way. The quicker, the better.

And that is where Microsessions come in.

What are Microsessions?

Based on terminology used in an article by Denzil Ferreira and their colleagues, a microsession is a session that is shorter than 15 seconds. This can vary, with another study saying this is increased to 22 seconds for elderly adults.

But the basic gist of it is that a microsession is a very short session that requires minimal interaction and completes the user's end goal in a very short period of time. That sounds short as heck, right? But when you think of it, something as simple as checking the weather, checking your emails... these should all be accomplishable with microsessions. Otherwise, you'll just be annoying your users with the amount of time it takes to complete a simple task.

According to Ferreira's research, a little more than 40% of mobile usage is microsessions. Which, I don't know about you folks, but seemed like a lot to me. This isn't including things like reading articles, watching videos, scrolling social media... but just small checks. Less than 15 seconds. 15 seconds is not a lot of seconds.

Microsessions, but make it complex

Wait, didn't I just say microsessions are short? How can they be complex?

Well, they can't. But, you can use the same ideology to apply to your more complex apps and tasks. If you look at your app and think "how can I make this more efficient? How can the user reach their goal sooner?", you're working to improve the experience for your users, and thinking in the terms of microsessions.

So while it doesn't technically count as a microsession, it's good to keep in mind.

How to Design for Microsessions

Now we get to the meat and potatoes of this post. We know what a microsession is, but how do we include them in our process? Well, there's multiple ways.

Generally speaking, you should always try to make entry points to important tasks front and center - the easier they are to discover, the better, and the quicker a user can do what needs done. Anything people commonly do on your app is included in this, and you should always have important actions easily available.

Hell, maybe you should even consider letting user complete actions without ever having opened the app. Which leads me to my next group of topics...

Notifications

According to the aforementioned study, 60% of microsessions start with notifications. And you can see why - a notification is the quickest way to draw people into your app, and update them of important information. You don't even have to lead the users back to your app - the best notifications are self-sufficient. You can even have actions available right in the notification! This lowers the time it takes to complete a task, and creates even more microsessions.

For example, think about a notification for a new email - you can read the main information of the email right in the notification, and most email applications will give you options to reply right for the notification. You never have to open the app, you just type in your text and continue on with your life.

But if you do end up leading your users back to the app, please make sure you lead them to the corresponding page. If you drop them right to the home screen, they have to maneuver around and find the right place to access the information they want, and that takes time.

Widgets

Widgets are a bit less well-known than notifications, but they can be extremely helpful in the world of microsessions.

A widget is basically a compressed view of the app right on your mobile devices home screen. They help you track changing information, and you can interact with the app without ever opening it.

Widgets let users quickly inspect the app data, any changing information, and they can interact with the information quickly. For a widget example, think of a weather widget - you can open your phone and immediately have updated weather information, all in a very quick period of time. And depending on how you have it set up, you can scroll to see weather information for other areas. And all of this is done without actually opening the app, and very efficiently.

One thing to keep in mind with widgets is that you have very limited space, so you have to make sure you choose your information carefully. Only include the most important information, make sure it's self contained, and listen to what your users want to see. The more relevant the information, the more effective the widget.

Quick Actions

With the current mobile landscape, quick actions are becoming more and more popular. Usually activated by long pressing the app icon or with 3D gestures, this is a list of actions the user can take without opening the app. Everything can be done in the home screen, and it cuts down on time needed to complete an action.

While this isn't widely adapted or common knowledge yet, for the people that do use quick actions frequently it can be a massive boon and increase the user experience greatly.

Be wary of adding to many action items - you have a limited space, only include the most important items in the list.

Intelligent Assistants (Siri/Google Assistant)

As tech continues to grow, voice assistants are gaining traction and people are starting to use them more and more often to complete actions hands free. Using voice commands massively decreases the time taken to do something, and people like to do things in new and interesting ways.

Including this functionality can be more difficult, but if you suggest actions people can add to their voice command list you'll soon get more and more people using these assistants to access you're app.

Conclusion

Microsessions are crucial to good app design, as well as being easy to implement. Taking advantage of these technologies and techniques to help users is only a benefit.

While some of these methods aren't as well known by users, and you might not get a massive ROI, they are helpful both for you and the users who do know about them, and it's always worthwhile. Saving users time is always a job well done, and means you've designed something well.

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