Subtleties are equally powerful as hustle: Interaction Design


Dec 18, 2018


In the world of explicit expressions, we forget subtleties also have value. Hustle has become a de-facto for expression and this form of expression would push an idea or a sale. Honestly, how many of us like someone pushing their ideas? If we show a subtle expression or a nudge, the chances that people listen to us would be high. The psychology behind this is, we value self-decision-making much more than forced decision-making. Subtle expressions provide a hint or create a question in their mind, still, they are making the decisions.

Last week at one of the zero-tolerance junctions in Bangalore, a bus stopped a few feet past the bus stop. A middle-aged woman and an old lady got down from the bus. They tried to reach the footpath. But, found it tough as the 2 wheelers were going past the bus through the gap between the bus and the footpath. So, they just waited and watched the two-wheelers. Seeing them waiting, one of the riders stopped his two-wheeler and gestured for them to cross. The lady in return smiled at him with a like. He nodded and smiled back.

The interaction was so subtle, yet the communication was effective and it made both parties feel good. The same is the case with interaction design. Most of the time, nuances contribute to effective communication, easy understanding, and efficient use. They are critical for a memorable experience.

We love Art because of its subtleties. Here are a few well-known examples of Digital experiences:


Subtlety in status:

As and when the user types the password, MailChimp grays out the requirements that are met. It ensures that the user need not remember them.

subtlety-in-status - Sona Design

Subtlety in feedback:

Once all the password requirements are met, MailChimp then replaces them with a success message.

subtlety-in-feedback - Sona Design

Subtlety in copy:

When a page doesn’t load rather than just saying error loading, LinkedIn says “It’s not you. It’s us.” which assures the user that the problem is on their end.

subtlety-in-copy - Sona Design

Subtlety in progress:

Instead of a loading spinner, Slack greets users with quotes, messages, or tips and tricks which makes the wait time, interesting.

subtlety-in-progress - Sona Design

I’d love to hear if you have come across any such examples in real-life or digital experiences.