The perception of value — a brief look into micro-experience awareness

Can you remember the last time you used something and consciously thought in so many words, “What I just experienced was valuable”?

It seems a bit unnatural, for sure.

We interact with countless products and services throughout our day-to-day lives; from alarm clocks to word processors to the TV remote and Netflix at the end of the night. And yet, in the millions of miniscule moments that make up these collective and contained experiences, so rarely do we stop and think, “Well that was helpful. I wish I could thank whoever made this.”

I liken this sudden feeling of reflective awareness to the breaking of our own internal fourth wall. It’s as if you’re attending a play, mindlessly lost in the performance, and then an actor pops out from the side of the stage and proclaims, “That was a great one-liner, wasn’t it?” and you nod in agreement.

I find it interesting then how we in the design strategy space largely try to emphasise the importance of providing value throughout each step of a product or service journey, while simultaneously accepting in the back of our minds that customers may never cognitively notice this “value” we sought to instil.

It’s not wrong; it’s just interesting.

I can also think of a few corporate departments that would love to believe that their customers give each other slow-motion high fives after completing a purchase or booking, but most reactions are so much more subtle that they could appear physically non-existent.

She just finished using your app and she’s happy. This is what it looks like.

From a customers’ perspective, they needed to do Task A, satisfactorily if possible, and then move on to Task B. Even if it makes them particularly unhappy but it’s their only means of achieving their desired outcome, they’ll consider suffering through it.

This line of thinking began as I was questioning whether or not it would be “valuable” to my client to mark where along the journey and respective touchpoints that customers are most likely to perceive value. I wanted to reinforce the idea that sometimes it’s the little things we invest time and resources in that will be the push needed for conversions and repeat business.

In considering this, I began to deeply appreciate that no matter how minute, a person may still derive value from nothing more than a meaningfully placed micro-interaction or informative line of text.

Now, these generally aren’t what you’ll want to base your business plan on, but it’s important to recognise how they add up together in the overall perception of your customer’s experience. I saw that value can be felt in not only getting what you seek, but also in the smallest gestures that help us get closer to that which we desire.

A door opened for you as you enter a restaurant when you’re hungry and your hands are full.

An alert from your bank that your credit card balance is due when you’re trying to reduce your interest payments.

A map provided alongside a set of directions when you’re running late for an appointment.

A password form alerting you that your caps lock is on when your report is due and you can’t afford to be locked out of your account

It’s reassuring to know that we can help people save so much time, avoid so much budding frustration, and feel so much more relief in life by including even the lowest levels of error prevention and assistance in our designs.

There’s value to be found in the moments nobody talks about.

…and for the record, it was in fact a similar Windows 7 caps lock warning that inspired this entire think piece.


These and other UX related thoughts and lessons can be found on my website, geoffwilsonux.com. Feel free to share this post, follow along, or get in touch with me on Twitter @geoffwilsonux.