Micro nudge

A micro nudge is a well-timed small animation that prompts the user to do a “small” task that they may have otherwise forgotten or not have taken notice of.

Here’s an example from Instagram:

Micro nudge

The sliding “comment” is the micro nudge. It’s not shown on default, but once the user seems interested in the post (aka the user has paused in scrolling to look at a post), the slide down animation nudges the user towards a desired action: commenting. Commenting is a small action that’s easily forgotten so the nudge serves as a reminder.

“Commenting” isn’t shown by default nor is it shown on every single post. That would increase the visual noise, and its ubiquitousness would probably desensitize the user from the action so it’d be as good as not showing the action.

Instead, the action is hidden by default. It’s only shown when the user’s most likely to comment — when the user’s interested in the post. The slide-down animation captures the user’s attention and reminds the user to take the action when they’ve already been primed to do so.

Here’s another example from Instagram. Same concept — the tags are only shown when the user has paused and seems interested in the picture.

Micro nudge

LinkedIn tried something similar with their “be the first to comment” animation. But in my opinion, this wasn’t implemented as well as the Instagram examples.*

This is the animation:

Micro nudge

And it’s shown for all non-commented posts (you’ll have to look kind of hard for it):

Micro nudge

The problem with this animation is that it happens for every non-commented post, regardless of whether you’re interested in the post or not. The indiscrimination means this particular animation is nudging more than just commenting.

When you’re not interested in a post, the animation is asking you to 1) take note of a post that was initially not interesting to you and 2) comment. This has now become a much “bigger” task. It’s no longer reminding the user to just comment.

The main purpose of a micro nudge is to prompt the user to do a “small” task that they might have otherwise forgotten or not have taken notice of. If the user is already interested in a post, then asking them to comment is a “small” ask. If the user isn’t interested in a post, then asking them to comment is “bigger”.

Also, something else I noticed is the size and obviousness of these nudges. Instagram’s are very obvious — they’re big or right in the center of an image, so when the user’s actually interested in a post, they’re less likely to miss these nudges. Whereas LinkedIn’s are smaller. Even if the user’s interested in LinkedIn’s post, the small nudge may not be noticed by the user for it to be a reminder.

The easy fix to LinkedIn’s nudges: be more discriminatory with when to employ the animation. Show the animation only when the user’s interested in the post, then the animation is nudging for a much “smaller” action. And when nudging, make sure it’s obvious enough so the user doesn’t miss the trigger.

Essentially, micro nudges work best when…

  • The task is small and the nudge is serving as a reminder.

  • Discriminatory — it is well-timed and only shown when user has “expressed” interest. If it’s shown all the time, the nudges could become distracting, feel forced, or just annoying.

  • The nudge is easily noticeable and not hidden.

Extrapolating this further, where else could we employ this micro nudge, where we shepherd the user towards a preferred action? What small behaviors do you want your users to take?

These are just some of my initial ideas as I’m still noodling on this, but if you guys have thoughts, ideas or suggestions, comment away and add to the convo.


*My thoughts about LinkedIn’s animations are assuming that LinkedIn is trying to increase engagement on their posts.

Of course, perhaps with this particular implementation, they were just trying to increase the engagement on the newly published posts that don’t have any engagement yet. If that’s the case, then their animations are probably garnering attention and the engagement on newly published posts is probably slightly higher.

But they run into the problem where when many posts don’t have comments, this animation happens very frequently, potentially becoming nuisances.

To prevent the animations from becoming nuisances, only animate when the user actually seems interested in the post.

Who knows — perhaps LinkedIn has already tried the suggestion, looked at the data, and found that their current tactic is still more effective.

Note: Thanks to Vivian for the contribution. Originally published on Medium.