The Little Details and Why They Matter to Your Users

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a cupboard in your house dedicated entirely to coffee mugs…

Craig Morrison
Published in
8 min readJul 31, 2017


Despite there only being 2 adults in my household, we have at least 30 coffee mugs in that cupboard. It’s insane.

Some of them were gifts, others were picked up while on vacation. Regardless, all of them seem to have a small bit of sentimental value attached to them. So in the cupboard they stay.

But here’s thing thing…

I hate using all of them all except for one.

Every single morning I drink coffee from a plain, black, glossy mug.

Why? Because it just feels right.

It holds just the right amount of coffee I can drink before it goes cold. The handle is the right shape for my fingers. The glossy finish feels nice when I take a sip.


In a cupboard full of mugs, whose sole purpose is to simply hold warm liquid, I pick the same one over and over again simply because of all the little details and how they add up to a better coffee drinking experience.

Your product is the mug, and that cupboard is all your competitors who offer more or less the exact same service as you.

Creating a positive user experience is quickly becoming the deciding factor for why many people will choose to stay with your product and not move on to your competitors.

But most people know this, and so they choose to focus on the big things for creating a better experience.

A fast, responsive site. Great visual design. A well thought out user interface.

And of course these are all important, but all the other mugs also hold coffee and keep it warm for me

If you want to set your product apart from your competitors, it’s time to start focusing on the little details of your product design, and learn how powerful they can be for creating an even better experience for your users.

To illustrate this point, here are a few great examples from a favorite site of mine,

Give your product some personality — make it human.

Nothing is worse than interacting with a product that behaves like a robot.

For some reason, it seems like everyone’s default setting is to make their product sound like a robotic mindless machine.

“Required password input incorrect. Re-input password according to proper specifications…” is not the way a person wants to interact with your product.

You want to make their experience feel more human by using a conversational tone, and speaking to them in a casual way.

But this concept goes beyond the language you use to communicate with users. It can also be applied to the visual design.

Years ago, we saw glimpses of this happening when novelty 404 pages became a thing. People would land on the 404 page and end up with a funny joke, or an interesting graphic, and it would be a big hit.

Why? Because it was this sudden reminder that PEOPLE BUILT THIS.

But this shouldn’t just be reserved to pages that people aren’t supposed to land on.

Basecamp uses this concept well (or did with one iteration of their signup page).


The signup page for Basecamp contained “Mr. Basecamp” hanging out with a nice big friendly smile as you filled out the form.

If you made a mistake, his expression changed from happy to sad, and he would point to where you made a mistake.

It’s just subtle enough that when you notice it, you think wow, and it makes filling out that signup form just a little bit less boring.

Get out of your user’s way, but don’t make a big deal about it.

It’s important to remember that little details should be just that… little.

Sometimes, not being noticed at all is the entire goal of a little detail. The user doesn’t even realize how it’s making their experience better, and that’s perfect.

There has been countless occasions where I’ve had to explain to clients of mine that a good interface in invisible. It doesn’t have to “be unique” or “not look like those other guys”.

A good interface gets out of the user’s way and lets them access the value they’re looking for faster and easier.

A great example of this is on Instagram’s native mobile app.

The value of using Instagram is getting to absorb all the great images and videos posted by friends or whoever it is that you follow.

That’s why it makes total sense to override the default volume slider, which would cover the video you are watching.

This would lead to people having to restart the video after adjusting the volume.

Instead, Instagram uses a minimally designed volume slider which appears at the very top of the screen, allowing users to continue watching as they adjust the volume.


This most likely goes completely unnoticed by most users, but they value it adds to the user’s experience is tremendous.

Do the heavy lifting for your users any chance you get.

You know what I hate? Filling out forms online. You know who else hates this? EVERYONE.

Besides making your forms user friendly, there isn’t a solution for making this any easier. It’s just one of those things that everyone has to deal with.

But you know what I hate even more? Having to type THE SAME THING into a form field more than once.

It’s like when you call the credit card company and the recording asks you to type in your card number, birth date, etc. and when you finally get a person on the line the first thing they ask for is your card number.


AirBnB get’s it. They’re product is a perfect example of where you’re required to type the same thing into a form over and over again.

When you apply to stay at a listing, you often need to send the host a message. If you’re applying to multiple places, you’re going to have to type that message over, and over, and over again.

But AirBnB has got your back. When contacting multiple hosts like this, they automatically copy your last message AND change the host’s name for you!


This is such an amazingly, breathtaking thing to have happen, especially when you’re bogged down in the stressful task of trying to find a place to stay.

Security is important, but don’t get all crazy about it.

Trigger warning… are you ready for this? I’m sorry to have to do this but here it goes…

Warning: Five (5) unsuccessful login attempts will cause your online access to be locked for one hour.

Oh please god NO! My anxiety levels just shot through the roof. Now I’ve gotta reset my password but what email did I use for this account?

I’m just going to go ahead and say it… fuck complicated passwords.

I get it, they’re required. By no means am I saying don’t use them or require them, but have mercy on us please!

Give us a little help when we forget our passwords. Comfort us in some way, perhaps a warm cup of tea and a blanket?

Have no fear, it’s Trello to the rescue.

Trello understands this pain, and when you get your password wrong, they provide hints as to what passwords MUST contain in order to work.


“Oh right, this is the one that requires 6 special characters, I remember now…”

This can be a huge help for people like me who send a lot more time than I’d like to admit trying to remember passwords.

(Yes I’m aware of things like LastPass and have tried them and become equally as frustrated).

Automate important tasks that don’t have value to users.

Sometimes there are tasks you really need your users to do, but they just don’t want to do them because there’s nothing in it for them.

In theses situations, you want them to perform a task because it’s valuable for you and your product, but not so much for them.

Going back to AirBnB as an example, let’s say you’ve messaged 25 different hosts and have finally decided on a place.

You book it, get excited, and move along… but what about all those hosts that you messaged that are wondering… “so is this guy gonna book my place or not?”

Ideally, if you’re a kind and warm hearted person, you’ll message each host back to let them know you’ve decided on another listing.

But if you’ve ever sold anything on Kijiji before, you’ll know that most people aren’t kind and warm hearted.

That’s why AirBnB takes care of this for you.

Once you decide and book a place to stay, the product automatically messages all the hosts you contacted and let’s them know you’ve booked with another host.


This greatly improves the experience for hosts, who can now continue accepting other applications.

Little details make a big difference in user retention.

In terms of coffee mugs, black and glossy has retained me as a user for life.

Until the inevitable day when I drop it (sigh) and it smashes into a million pieces, I will always use it because of the small details that make the experience so enjoyable.

Products work in the same way. The big details are very important, but everyone knows this. It’s the little details that can really set your product apart, and build a strong connection with a user.

The big question remains… how do you know which parts of your product could benefit the most by including some of these “little details?”

You need a way to measure the user satisfaction of all the important tasks on your product. A way to tell where to focus your attention to create the biggest positive impact on your users.

To help with this problem I created UserPings.

It’s a way to keep track of the usability of your users micro tasks, like following an onboarding sequence, changing payment details, or resetting their password.

You get a dashboard that tells you exactly what is causing your user’s pain, and why it’s a problem for them.

We’re currently accepting applications to be part of our limited beta program. If you’re interested, go here and apply for the Beta.



Craig Morrison

Product Designer. I help startups grow by creating positive user experiences. Read more on my blog