One free interaction

“One free interaction” is a prospective design pattern that gives software and hardware a more humane feel. It exists outside of task flows and the concept of users as task-doers. Instead it sits in the “in between” spaces, suiting users as fidgeters, communicators, and people who play with things.

Snapback pages

When I got my iPhone, I spent time opening up all the applications and playing around. I was keeping an eye open for what new facets of the touchscreen interaction design were fun and useful. When using the Safari web browser, I noticed the funny stretchy-edge pages. Meaning, when you use your finger to scroll above the top of a page or below the bottom of a page, it pulls away from the edge of the browser, revealing a small blank area that sits “behind” the page. When you lift your finger up, the page snaps back into place. It’s kind of hard to describe, so this little video should help.



It was pretty cool, since it provided some visual confirmation of the edges of the page. But honestly I thought it was just a coding oversight. Then I saw it again in the text message page. And again in email menus, and the emails themselves. Nope, I realized, it’s baked into the OS.


I put the feature out of my mind until I found myself fiddling with it. Mulling over an email, or waiting for a text response from someone, I’d sit and idly flick the pages away from the edge just to watch them snap back. Flick-snap. Flick-snap. It was so satisfying, even if it was sort of useless.


Then I started seeing this same pattern in other things.


Quordy



In the iPhone word-finder application Quordy you’re meant to drag your finger through a grid of letters to create words. But tapping single letters also sets off a little animation of the tapped letter flying into the corner. Since there is no consequence to doing this, it becomes something to do as you look for new words.

De-re-selecting



I noticed two friends who use their mouse to repeatedly select and deselect text in web browsers as they read pages online. This is absolutely crazymaking for onlookers, but really satisfying for them.

Purr

A couple I know so dearly love the “purr” error sound in the MacOS X, that they look for ways to get it to sound without interrupting their work. They found a key command that can only execute when something’s selected on the desktop, so occasionally they’ll deselect everything and play it for one other a couple of times. It’s like saying “I love you” in 16Bit/44Khz.

Pearl trackball

This pattern can be seen in industrial design as well. I’ve heard that owners of Blackberries adore just fiddling with the pearl trackball, especially when the device is off.


pearl.jpg


When I talk to each person about these behaviors, there’s not a lot of conscious decision-making going on here. The web-page-highlighters aren’t intending anything when they do this, it’s just something they enjoy doing. But even though these behaviors don’t help move any tasks or goals along, they’re satisfying. And because they provide a release for nervous energy and/or let us be expressive, they become an extension of ourselves to which we have some small emotional connection.

Free interactivity

This emotional connection is desirable from both a branding and an interaction design perspective, so we should make use of this type of interaction. I’m giving them a name so we can talk about them: free interactions. They’re “free” because they have no consequences. They affect only the interface and don’t touch content. It’s interactive because there is some small, quick cause and effect.


As we’re trying to understand what makes them successful, there are some other important aspects to these behaviors worth noting. Most of them are “natural,” in the sense that they feel more like the natural world than the computer world. The snapback pages feel like they’s connected by rubber bands. The MacOS X “purr” sounds kind of like a cute animal. The pearl is even called a pearl and feels like a little stone under your thumb. Granted, clearly there’s no natural analogue to text selection and deselection, but you see the pattern. When these things have a natural feel they have a pleasant, emotional…humane feeling.


Another aspect is that the feedback loop is very quick. Purr.aiff plays at 0.5 seconds, and that seems like the longest duration before it would become too weighty to keep doing over and over. The snapback, in comparison, feels like it takes about a quarter second, and the Quordy letter animation takes place in even shorter amounts of time.


Free interactions are rare enough right now that I couldn’t find an example in which there were more than one. But I imagine that if there is more than one, it would begin to feel a little hokey and detract from the actual utility of the system. (OK, maybe KidPix has overdone it, but it’s right for their audience.) Because of this minimalist constraint, let’s ultimately call the pattern one free interaction.


One Free Interaction card

Call to action

Since we want our designs to be humane and, presuming they fulfill their utilitarian purposes well, emotionally satisfying, I suggest that designers begin to include one free interaction in their designs to enable the channeling of energy and simple expression. Design this interaction such that:

  • It’s “free,” i.e. having no significance to the task or content
  • It’s discoverable in ordinary use of the product
  • It’s quick and repeatable (Less than half a second.)
  • It’s pleasant


This is a prospective pattern, and one that I’d love to hear if others have encountered or implemented. Where else in the world have you seen this at play?

92 Comments

Christopher Hawkins

In regards to the selecting and deselcting - I do it all the time, mainly because white on dark blue is easier to read than grey on white with such these bright lit LDCs.

Fred Schechter
I always just called it a free surprise, but yes! Having a feature that is hidden, you can implement (in 3d or visually) that can provide anything from,, that little thing you flick, to aiding and abetting your nervous tick while in meetings, is endearing for end users and tends to give a more personal feel to any object. Wonderful article, thank you.
Jörn Zaefferer
The foliage-o-meter on http://www.komodomedia.com/ seems to be a free interaction, too. It's pointless, but fun to slider around and whatch the foliage appear and disappear.
Jörn Zaefferer
Another one, from the same author: http://rogieking.com/ Hover over the person-icon to get your free interaction.
Shyam Duriseti
Picking from Pearl trackball, most of the keys on our comuter keyboards offer free interactions when acted in isolation. Ala pretending playing a piano. Nice article Chris.
Tim McCoy
Yes, this brings to mind some other whimsical design elements, like the flourish at the bottom of the Adobe Lightroom panel [http://tinyurl.com/b9jjrf] or the smoking disco app [http://tinyurl.com/auzvml]. What's interesting about your examples is that the interaction isn't pointless, it is providing feedback in some way that has the *side effect* of being a pleasurable interaction on its own. I'd venture to say none of those interactions were *designed* to be free, but that they were implemented in an interesting, pleasurable way.
Robert
Totally agree ... great thought to notice and post. I do a few of these things as well. Bummer when sites like the NYTimes breaks the double-click with a borked feature. I always am double/triple clicking to have the word/line/paragraph highlighted...
Nick
Great post. I'm sure that Apple will disagree vehemently that the snap-back interaction is "free". They've patented that specific functionality according to Engadget.
Rob McKeown
I found myself doing the exact same thing with my IPhone just yesterday. There is something really satisfying about the way it bounces back and forth and then peacefully comes to rest in its proper place.
Tim
Good posting. Personally I find myself simulating bouncing the Mac beachball or aligning it with bits of the interface or webpages...
gaurav chadha
this is cool, great article chris
Doug S.
The benefit of interaction feedback 'surprises' is that they teach the user to expect the unexpected. This fundamentally changes the mental model of the user, and results in more discovery, and a better, more memorable user experience.
Chris Noessel
@Doug S. It's a good point. But I'd caution that there should still only be one of these interactions. You don't want to hide a bunch of functionality that the user has to hunt for. Expecting the unexpected is great in a movie; but can be perilous in a software app.
Martin Pilkington
I'm doing the same with my new mouse, an MX Revolution. When reading something or waiting for something, I'll move the cursor over the desktop and start flicking the scroll wheel so it is in free wheel mode. Very satisfying.
Graham
Flipping the ringer on and off on my original iPhone is pretty satisfying. The switch has such a nice solid feel to it, and on every other flip you get a vibration when the ringer is turned off.
Jeffrey W. Baker
Oh geez, I do almost all of these things. I must be obsessive.
Sam Kelly
I love rearranging the tabs in Google Chrome, the sliding animation is great. Tumblr's dashboard sliding panels are sweet too.
Grady
Great article. I do some of these things, and have also noticed an opposite effect in other circumstances: for example, somewhere around Windows 98ish, Microsoft added some well-intentioned features to help those who need it more easily turn on accessibility features. For example, hitting the Shift key five times turns on StickyKeys. It had been my almost-unconscious habit before then to tap ratatat patterns on the "safe" Shift keys while thinking or waiting for the computer. Now it's no big deal to turn this off, but there's something particularly unpleasant about a formerly safe behavior suddenly causing an unexpected effect.
EVula
I randomly select text on websites all the time; never really thought about *why* until now. Fantastic post. (and yes, I do the page flick on my iPhone all the time, and play with the ringer on/off switch a fair amount, too)
Gordon Brander
To be completely utilitarian in design actually detracts from utility, since people aren't machines and we need a bit of folly to lighten things up. I think the little bit of continuity that a Free Interaction gives makes the system feel more real. It's similar to the way authors include little bits of fictional history without explanation, creating the illusion of a continuous world. The first time I saw the rubber band of the page snapback, I was immediately impressed: Apple had to overcome the bias that users had against unresponsive touch-screen interfaces. Providing a little bit of real-world physics did the trick, making it feel more like manipulating a real object. By the way, I do the text selection thing all the time. I've been told off for it by people watching, but it's something I can't kick. It's fun.
Thomas
Along these lines, I've always liked to click-drag to draw "instant disappearing rectangles" in the empty middle of my Mac desktop. Especially fun to move the mouse around in a circle and watch the rectangles sort of grow and shrink out from around a central point.
Korivak
I can think of a couple that I use in my own life. I tend to press the Shift keys on my keyboard a half dozen times or so whenever I pause for thought while typing, or hold the Shift key down before starting a new sentence (both of which turn on Accessibility features in new installs of Windows, sadly). I also tend to deselect things by clicking in white space, but I'm not sure if that counts. In terms of intentional ones put in by designers, the (in)famous gem from the Diablo II lobby comes to mind. When you click it, it toggles between on and off, and sends a system message to the chat window alerting you to the status change...and nothing else.
Not Required
Search in Safari. The yellow zoomy highlight is addictive. Even when there is but one match for a word on the page, I can't help but hit command-g a few extra times to see it dance.
Harry Smith
I'm a text highlighted, especially when reading web pages. However, there is a purpose to it. By highlighting just a couple of words, it helps focus in on what I'm reading, whilst giving my hand something to do. It's also incredibly frustrating when a page doesn't allow you to highlight properly, the BBC blogs are a good example of this.
www.ichwerdeeinberliner.com
This posting made me sad, somehow. You guys should get yourself a hobby ;-)
Harry Smith
Another one I do is select a cell in a spreadsheet, and then just rotate the mouse in circles while I think.
charles Parnot
I think this is a great observation. After thinking about it a little more, my take on this is that this is exactly like doodling when you are on the phone, or like turning the pages of a contract while you discuss it, etc... I believe it has been scientificatlly shown that having some kind of manual activity while thinking about a problem, reading, learning, explaining somehting, etc... can help your brain perform better. Thus, IMO, these free interactions should clearly eb making the app more real-world-like, like you suggest, because they encourage the same kind of inconscious activity while reading/ thinking/etc...
Eric
I had one of the original iPods with the mechanical scroll wheel. I found myself constant rotating it with my thumb and saw a lot of others doing it. In some ways, I think this habit (people twiddling their phone) help build awareness of the iPod and gave users an extra little bit of satisfaction.
Steve
In the Warcraft series of Blizzard games, obsessively clicking on a unit leads to a series of funny vocalizations. And in the real world, there are bits for horses that give them a free action: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bit_mouthpiece#Roller_bits
Lanny Heidbreder
On the flip side, you also need to accommodate people with these quirks and not make their idle actions have unintended results. I'm a text highlighter, and I can't stand the New York Times site, because it had this stupid feature where you double-click on any word to bring up its definition. They've since changed it to where a little question mark pops up that you can click on, but I still accidentally click them all the time while I'm doing my text highlighting.
Sandra
Ugh, this is like people who absentmindedly sit and click their ballpoint pen at you, or drum with their pencil.
Nathan Ladd
On the Palm, Red Mercury has a line of card games (Acid Solitaire being one of them.) The name of the game is shown in the lower corner of the screen. You can drag individual letters away from the word and, when you release the stylus, they would snap back into place. There is no purpose to it. I loved fiddling with it, especially when mulling over a move in their Freecell game.
Moitah
I do this all the time on Safari (Mac), I select paragraphs of text by triple-clicking, for the only reason that the way Mac OS handles paragraph select is perfect. The paragraph is a perfect square (or you can see first-line indents if there are any), unlike in Firefox or Windows where triple-clic only selects on line (Which is absolutely irrelevant when you select text in a multi-lined paragraph, since a particular line often won't convey any meaning when separated from the rest of the paragraph). This i a great post. Konw I follow you in my RSS. Have a nice day
Arnab
Great post! The "de-re-selecting" free interaction is quite popular. When New York Times introduced their Javascript-based auto-popups that triggered on selection, they infringed upon this free interaction and overloaded it with an unexpected, (albeit useful) response. Hence, my immediate appraisal of that feature was "this sucks". (NYT has since introduced a more subtle infringement, which lets me have my free interaction but still keep make it useful.)
Kid B
The real-world example that immediately comes to mind is the classic Zippo lighter. There is something so satisfying about flipping/flicking that hinged top open. It becomes a smooth, repetitive, hypnotic habit almost immediately. I felt a similar itch the first time I played with the Motorola PEBL. So smooth in the hand. Flip open, flip closed. Flip open, flip closed...
Chris S
On the iPhone, I enjoy flipping the numeric keypad back and forth when on a phone call. There's a tiny flipping animation that is both whimsical and satisfying. I will flip (hide/show) the keypad incessantly during a call.
P.D.
You say, "It's a good point. But I'd caution that there should still only be one of these interactions." I think this misses the point. Users will end up using one specific mode of interaction as their free interaction, but there are different parts of the UI that they might end up using this way. Instead of highlighting and dehighlighting, for example, someone might left and right click to summon and dismiss a contextual menu. If I had the latter nervous habit, the highlighting thing wouldn't even occur to me as a free interaction.
Anonymous
What do you mean by "humane"? Do you mean human-like or do you mean humane? You use the term twice... 1 having or showing compassion or benevolence : regulations ensuring the humane treatment of animals. • inflicting the minimum of pain : humane methods of killing. 2 formal (of a branch of learning) intended to have a civilizing or refining effect on people : the center emphasizes economics as a humane discipline.
daGUY
Did anyone here ever play Super Mario 64? At the opening screen there's a 3D model of Mario's head, and you can grab different parts of his face and pull them to stretch them out. When you let go, they snap back into place. There's absolutely no point to it, but it's fun! On the Wii, if you load the News channel and leave it open for long enough, a little cat darts out for a second. If you can manage to point the remote at it and click it before it runs off, it'll give you little tips about different News channel features.
Steph Thirion
Great post! And I loved to learn that not only there's more people like me selecting deselecting stuff, but there's more people that for that reason have been annoyed by the New York Times highlighting popups. I'm the third one mentioning it here, so we might actually be quite a few out there.
Anonymous
I read an article about Jony Ive (Apple's lead designer) once, where former employers praised his work. At one place he worked, he did a prototype of a pen with some thingamajig on the end for the user to play with. His idea was all about "free interactions": People often repeatedly click ballpoint pens absentmindedly, he just added a little more "flavour" to it. Unfortunately, I can't recall what the thing on the end of the pen was. Anyway, he showed it to his boss, who kept it just to play with it - he didn't want to give it back.
Moitah
@anonymous "Ive had his own ideas from the start. Born in a middle-class London neighborhood, he was consumed with the mystery of how things are made by his early teens. Upon enrolling in the design program at Newcastle Polytechnic in 1985, his talent and drive quickly became obvious. During an internship with design consultancy Roberts Weaver Group, he created a pen that had a ball and clip mechanism on top, for no purpose other than to give the owner something to fiddle with. "It immediately became the owner's prize possession, something you always wanted to play with," recalls Grinyer, a Roberts Weaver staffer at the time. "We began to call it 'having Jony-ness,' an extra something that would tap into the product's underlying emotion."" Taken from here : http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_39/b4002414.htm
Chris Noessel
@telebear: I'm using it similarly to the way that Jef Raskin appropriated the term in "The Humane Interface," and more like the second sense of the definition you've posted. The inclusion of free interactions in a design respects users as humans rather than treating them like cogs in a Taylorist task machine.
Chris Noessel
@Steve: The roller bit is an excellent analogue metaphor. I like it partially because I used the tack and saddle as a metaphor for interface in the class I was teaching last term at CCA. I also like it because it hints that the need for free interactions may be even more fundamental than I'd thought. Thanks!
Jeffrey W. Baker
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flysi
I constantly highlight/de-select text on web pages as I'm reading it. On the NY Times site, though, highlighting text on some pages pops up a little question mark icon, which will search the Times' archive for the selected text. I've frequently clicked inadvertently, resulting in some ridiculous searches for paragraphs-long queries.
flysi
Correction: that search on the NY Times site returns results from Answers.com.
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Nils
I know several people who drift their cursor over an empty desktop, right to left, fluttering on the right mouse button. It causes a cascade of useless menus to cascade down, like sprinkling context-menu fairy dust from a magic wand. Interestingly, these people are spread across developing nations, but I have never seen this happen in America. Has anybody else seen this behavior?
Jim Matthews
Users let us know that our product Fetch, a Mac FTP client, has a "free interaction." The progress indicator is donut-shaped, and while files are transfered the cursor is an animation of running dog, which happens to be the right size to just fit in the hole of the progress donut. We've heard from many users that they pass time during transfers by moving the cursor into the donut, so it looks like the dog is running in a hamster wheel.
drew
there's an autistic woman named carly fleishmann that does this "free interaction" stuff pretty much constantly, all day long. She can't talk, but somehow learned english through typing and reading. There's a good youtube video of her at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnylM1hI2jc
Julie
I observe these behaviors frequently in elementary-aged students. Selecting rectangles on the desktop is a favorite. I notice that most students will fiddle for a while, and then get back to work; but for a few students, these behaviors seem to lull them away from the task at hand, and they don't "come back" until I remind them. I usually wait a while, though, because I suspect it serves some purpose, and I don't want to interfere unnecessarily.
Dan
I noticed two friends who use their mouse to repeatedly select and deselect text in web browsers as they read pages online. This is absolutely crazymaking for onlookers, but really satisfying for them.
As an inveterate page-clicker and text-highlighter, it's nice to know I'm not alone. I came down here to comment expressly to complain about NYTimes.com's utterly useless javascript widget that always gets in the way of this habit, and I'm heartened to see many others have beaten me to it. Perhaps they think these complaints are stupid, but I find their pages' behavior distracting almost to the point of anger. A shiny new donkey for whoever brings me the head of Khoi Vinh. Bring Back Free Clicking! http://tinyurl.com/freeclicking
Matt Sephton
Fantastic write up of this observation. Great stuff. I'm a highlighter. Words, sentences (including trailing full stop but not extra white space) and of course the chunky paragraph rectangles in Safari in Mac OS X. Also, I draw the selecion rectangles on the desktop, or select and unselect groups of files or icons. I do the iPhone snap back thing, too. I also do similar things whilst playing video games. It might be trying to drive parallel to certain lines, just because I enjoy how it looks in screen. F-Zero on SNES is a great example of this, where you can drive parallel to the edge of the track and the pseudo-3D display if the road will produce a lovely moiree (sp?) effect. Enjoying reading about what everybody else does. Thanks. I can't help but feel these things, as well as being interactions without consequence, are an outlet for the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in all of us.
utbobdavis
I tend to hit command+s anywhere i'm typing. I'm sure it's a residuary impulse from writing papers in college and law school, and thus often serves a purpose. On the other hand, it can get annoying in emails (accumulate drafts constantly), web input boxes (save webpage as...), etc. I also do the highlighting thing constantly while reading.
Oskar Lissheim-Boethius
Can completely agree on all of the above. Typing the right arrow at EOL in (Funk or Submarine, can't decide!) Terminal to activate the system sound is a favorite, too. As is dragging and releasing images in Safari (flies back to origin). And flicking the pointer to upper right corner to activate Exposé/Show Desktop. I'm really ADDicted to this stuff.
Waffle
In Vim, I press jkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkj when I'm thinking. It moves the cursor up and down.
Gerry Quach
I admit it, I'm a compulsive clicker and highlighter as well. The NYTimes right-click script drives me crazy. I thought I was the only one like this. I find UIs like iPhone's deeply satisfying. It really is the ultimate "Apple PDA" that I've waited years for.
Paul Walker
I guess my “free interaction” on a computer is a little different. I tend to flip my (cordless mighty) mouse over and spin it around with my finger when reading. I don’t tend to do it on PC mice, but with the similarly shaped corded mighty mouse and apple pro mouse, it becomes a bit of an issue. You seem to be of the opinion that the snapping back of iPhone content is there solely as a free interaction. I disagree. It’s a balance of what is expected and what is sensible. Expected: content stays under your finger when you push it around. Sensible: You can’t scroll beyond the end of the content. Solution: the content resists being pulled off the screen, (it only goes about half as far as you pull it) and snaps back at the end of the scroll.
Grawlix
I can't count how many times in a day I will slide my iPhone screen on, then immediately turn the screen off again without entering my PIN.
monototo
I do lots of these.. one other... on the unlock screen on the iphone i'll slowly slide the slider 1/4 of the way just to watch the "slide to unlock" text slowly fade out. keeping your finger pinned on the slider you can move it back and forth watching the opacity reflect your movements.
Matt Sephton
I do the Safari image drag and snap-back, too. It sort of serves a purpose for me - in addition to being fun - I'm a web developer so like to see how things are built.
Torsten Kammer
One classic example would be any railroad simulator, where you can sound the horn. There is no reason to do so ever, you won't fail or get more points or anything, but it is an awful lot of fun to use it again and again and again.
Chris Noessel
@Paul Walker: This is the clearest explanation as to how Apple could come to the snapback feature. For me that's confirmation that you can come by free interactions "honestly" through the design process, and not have to layer them on.
Andy Polaine
Chris - it's a great collection of interactions you have there. I think that playful interactions have been around for a long time, certainly central to most of the interaction design I have been involved with. I'm not entire sure that it's a design pattern in itself, it comes down to understanding that playfulness can be an extremely potent affective design element, especially in interaction design. It's also about shifting your mindset from one of functional and tool-based thinking about interaction to one that is about the pleasure of objects, virtual or real. More of a response here: http://www.polaine.com/playpen/2009/02/10/one-free-playful-interaction/
brian
I thought I was the only one who selected random text while I read an article online. The old implementation of the NY Times feature drove me crazy, glad that it is gone. Great observations.
Matt
Has anyone found the small "equalizer" style interaction you can play with on the iphone, ive found it within the sms inbox or any list, if you scroll to the bottom you the scroll bar becomes really small but never completely disappears so you can make it grow and shrink, great fun with music on the go, plus tricky as you have to do the inverse of the beats for the bar to look like it increases in power on those big base lines. Nice little think about article, but how is it a case that trying to design in these factors causes them to not be as natural and fiddly?
Andrew
Kars Afrink spoke at IxDA and touched on this very subject of "free interactions". He said that studies of Tetris players who engaged in these sort of "superfluous actions" (like flipping tetris blocks unnecessarily) were actually better players. Kars suggested that by engaging in this action (playing with things in the world) were in a way offloading some cognitive effort to their hands. In other words, fiddling with these sort of free interactions isn't just idle play, it's an important kind of engagement with the world. Perhaps it suggests that a smart designer would build in things like snapback pages that are unique to the product (as opposed to generic, like selecting/deselecting text) as a way of building engagement with the user. Some notes on Kars' talk here: http://johnnyholland.org/magazine/2009/02/live-at-interaction09-day-4/
David Kjelkerud
Great observation! I agree with Paul Walker. I think the iPhone interface would feel much more rigid if it didn't have the snapback feature. I guess you always want some kind of feedback on input, even if the action performed is "incorrect". And since touch panels don't provide physical feedback, like say keyboards, visual feedback is very important. It makes the interface feel more transparent, like you're actually touching the objects behind the screen.
Andrew
On the old xbox 360 dashboard, I really enjoyed moving the menu system around, just to hear the swish-swish-swish noises. Each menu had a slightly different pitch. For me, those iPhone interactions really round off the whole user experience. They serve to make the ui predictable. I agree with Paul's comment, it'd feel odd if the page didn't move according to your gestures when you'd reached the bottom of the page. Certainly got me thinking Chris, so thanks.
Stephan
Granted, clearly there’s no natural analogue to text selection and deselection […]
A natural analogue may be doodle at the edge of a page. I also like to move or resize windows, jump around between two apps with cmd-tab (or keep them pressed and release on the foreground app again) or jump in computer games. I like to explain my behavior as expression of creativity :-)
Peter
In Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed for the PC (2000) you are able to trigger the direction indicators on/off. Left, right, and both together. It's useless, but fun watching the replay and looking at those flashing orange indicators. Another thing I do in Safari is select some text, click on it for half a second, the drag it and let it go before reaching the boundaries of the window, to watch it fly back to it's original position (much like others do with images). I also spend a lot of "beachball time" on my mac by trying to align the spinning beachball with other UI elements such as the middle of a button, the middle of a window's title bar (the height fits perfectly in there), over one of the window's control widgets (close/minimze/zoom) or right above the apple in the left corner of the menubar.
Fredrik Oviedo
I use select-deselct to mark where I left reading when my mind starts to wander and also to visually divide a long paragraph for easier reading. Since I swapped to Mac OS X (from PC Win) i keep moving windows to the top just to "hit" the top menubar while the mouse arrow keeps moving.
Suze Ingram
Haha! While I was reading through this I was highlighting the text. And you're right: I do it all the time and I really like doing it yet it serves no purpose.
Mike
Y'know, it never even occurred to me that other people do that stuff too until I read this. Another one of mine is to roll the OS X beachball along the edge of something, like a window or a line of text, and try to get it at the right speed where it looks like it's actually rolling. It's kind of hard, actually.
Artem
one of the things i often find myself doing with my iPod Touch is flipping through the different pages of apps. So flip through to the last page, then back to the first one, then back to the last one, etc... It's strangely addicting, yet unusually satisfying.
daGUY
I already posted here a while back, but I encountered something recently that immediately reminded me of this article. I just got a new cellphone - the Samsung SGH-A737. It's a little candybar-style phone with a sliding front face - slide it up and it reveals the number pad underneath. Anyway - the sliding action is so much fun that I'll often take it out of my pocket just to slide it up and down unnecessarily. There's something very satisfying about the way you just push it slightly and it goes *shhhh-ck!* and snaps into place. I'm almost afraid I'm going to wear out the mechanism prematurely!
Kevin Cannon
Great article. I recently did a project where we explore this behaviour a little here at CIID for Nokia. We simply used the term playful interaction, but I really like the way you communicate it here. You can check out a video of it here: http://cargocollective.com/kevincannon/#44899
Chris Noessel
Nice work, Kevin. As you may know, CIID and my grad alma mater, IDII, have some common ancestry. Good to see such nice work coming out of the place so soon! (And glad to see we're pushing some of the same ideas in interface development.)
Patrick Klein
The iphone snapback and qordy animation are just feedback.. usefull feedback. If it didn't give it that feedback you'd be wondering if you did pressed the screen hard enough. Or you would be unsure if your tochscreen didn't respond to your finger anymore. Its just a reaction on your action. And thus giving you feedback ( no you can't scroll any further ) My 2 year old understands when browsing photos on the iphone he has reached the end when the last photo snaps back to place. Not a fancy design animation with just a playfull intent..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHkhp6BwnGo | Implicit Interactions
[...] The gray circle that trails the red one: [Not sure what this one means. It might be a free interaction.] [...]
HYP.SL | Make it So
[...] unclear. Since it makes no discernable change in the interface, it could be what I’ve called one free interaction, but this seems unlikely since such cinematic attention was given to it. My only other guess is to [...]
ILLUSTRANDOM by John Maeda | Yinan Design
[...] Illustrator? Would people love it or think it’s a total waste? I think it would qualify as a “free interaction”, a big [...]
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Z4^:|-NM, xn--7ckep0ip04trqf.net, chat, http://xn--7ckep0ip04trqf.net/technique/70.html
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[...] an article for Cooper Journal, Chris Noessel calls ‘One free interaction’ a design pattern “that gives software a more [...]
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[...] an article for Cooper Journal, Chris Noessel calls ‘One free interaction’ a design pattern “that gives software a more [...]
Take UX to the next level by adding ‘delight’ / Prenez UX au niveau suivant en ajoutant «plaisir» « King of Designers - UX DESIGNER - Web Designer, Graphic Designer, Infographiste, Mobile apps UI Designer & Developer, Web Developer, Flash,
[...] an article for Cooper Journal, Chris Noessel calls ‘One free interaction’ a design pattern “that gives software a more [...]
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[...] an article for Cooper Journal, Chris Noessel calls ‘One free interaction’ a design pattern “that gives software a more [...]

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