Interaction Design - what is it?

Luke O'Shaughnessy — Posted on November 29th, 2016

Hello, as most who know me I am very passionate about the market I find talent in. The latest craze is cool interactive design so I decided to do some research into Interaction design and share it with my network. 

Interaction Design has origins from web and graphic design, but has grown into a realm of its own. Far from merely working with text and pictures, interaction designers are now responsible for creating every element on the screen that a user might swipe, click, tap, or type: in short, the interactions of an experience

What is Interaction Design?

Interaction Design (IxD) defines the structure and behavior of interactive systems. Interaction designers strive to create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services that they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances and beyond. Our practices are evolving with the world.

The Interaction Design Association (IxDA)

Interaction design began the day the first screen was designed to hold more than static copy. Everything from a button to a link to a form field is part of interaction design. Over the past several decades, a number of books have been released that explain facets of interaction design, and explore the myriad ways it intersects and overlaps with experience design.

Interaction design has evolved to facilitate interactions between people and their environment. Unlike user experience design, which accounts for all user-facing aspects of a system, interaction designers are only concerned with the specific interactions between a users and a screen. Of course, in practice things are never so crisply delineated.

Common Methodologies

Although interaction design spans myriad types of web and mobile applications and sites, there are certain methodologies that all designers rely on. We’ll explore some of the more common methodologies here: goal-driven design, usability, the five dimensions, cognitive psychology, and human interface guidelines.

Goal-Driven Design

Goal-driven design was popularized by Alan Cooper, in his book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity, published in 1999. Alan defines goal-driven design as design that holds problem solving as a highest priority. In other words, goal-driven design focuses first and foremost on satisfying specific needs and desires of the end-user, as opposed to older methods of design, which focused on what capabilities were available on the technology side of things.

Today, some of the points Alan brings up seem obvious, since designers rarely select interactions based solely on development constraints. However, at its heart, the methodology is all about satisfying the end-user’s needs and wants, which is just as necessary today as it ever was.

The process involved in goal-driven design, according to Alan, requires five shifts in the way we think as interaction designers.

  1. Design first; program second. In other words, goal-driven design begins with considerations for how users interact (and how things look!), rather than beginning with technical considerations.
  2. Separate responsibility for design from responsibility for programming.This refers to the necessity of having an interaction designer who can champion the end-user, without worrying about the technical constraints. A designer should be able to trust his or her developer to handle the technical aspects; in fact Alan Cooper suggests that to do otherwise places the designer in a conflict of interest.
  3. Hold designers responsible for product quality and user satisfaction.Though stakeholders or clients will have their own objectives, the interaction designer has a responsibility to the person on the other side of the screen.
  4. Define one specific user for your product. This particular idea has developed into something that is now more commonly associated with user research: personas. Yet Alan reminds us to connect personas back to the product, and constantly ask: where will this person use this? Who is he or she? What does he or she want to accomplish?
  5. Work in teams of two. Lastly, interaction designers should never work in a silo. Collaboration with others, which Alan Cooper calls a “design communicator,” is key. Though the design communicator Alan envisioned in 1999 was typically a copywriter intended to provide marketing copy for products, today that has expanded to include a project manager, content strategist, information architect, and many others.

Hope you enjoyed my share! All Interactive designers contact me, you are in HIGH demand! :-) 

Cheers, 

Luke

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