Subtlety in User Experience

I’m filing this under CSS(3), because it’s really a visual thing, and we all know that CSS is the most important tool in a web designers arsenal. Or something like that.

Subtle little things are incredibly important in user experience. Not as important as, say, making sure that everything is readable, or can be clicked, or such huge things. But still, important. People tend to notice the small things. cursor: pointer versus cursor:default makes a huge difference in the user’s experience. Well, that example doesn’t do a whole lot for mobile devices, but when people are using a desktop/laptop/netbook/device-with-a-cursor, our minds are well and truly programmed to take that little pointer finger to mean ‘this does something’.

And it isn’t just the way the cursor looks. Take a look at the latest version of MS Word for Windows: the topbar has incredibly subtle highlight effects when you mouse over. Not an obvious thing, but it helps the user know what is going to happen if they press their mouse button at that moment.

Basically, just remember that the little things count.