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Field note—

It's about the little big things

Dipesh Chhita

16 June 2017

It’s often said that the devil’s in the details. There are incredibly good designers out there who obsess over those finer points. Their solutions often work so seamlessly well that we don’t ever notice the human effort that went into them.

No one out there really cares about what’s inside their iPhone or the inner workings of their car’s internal combustion engine. The fact your front door lock works with your key is enough use of your daily brainpower. In the end, those things we do or use in everyday life usually become the background noise we can conveniently ignore.

On my first day in Wellington — after moving here from Auckland — I encountered one of Wellington’s quirky pedestrian crossing lights with an unexpected tweak to the ‘walk now’ icon. I couldn’t help but engage with it, turn around to take a second glance, and walk away with a smile. I’d just experienced a small moment of surprise and delight in an otherwise very mundane process. That completely utilitarian green light suddenly had a bit of soul. It was put there deliberately by a real person, for me to discover while I battled my way across the road in the horizontal Wellington rain.

It reminded me that when you find the right time and place for creating one, a pleasant little detail, unexpected magic moment, or thoughtful human touch woven into a customer journey can wield a huge amount of power on the greater overall experience.

Here are a few ‘little things’ tips for creating a delightful micro moment:

  • get into the audience’s shoes, put their goggles on and walk around a little
  • have a narrative — tell a small story, make a tiny statement
  • less is more — think of it as a ‘spiked moment’ and give it plenty of breathing space
  • let the audience discover it for themselves and on their own terms
  • have fun with it — life is too short
  • exploit flaws and ‘glitches in the matrix’, don’t hide them — they’re very human
  • most importantly, look for the magic in the very mundane — that’s where it creates the most joy.