Interaction design

Interaction design

Interaction Design (IxD) is the discipline of defining the behavior of products and systems that a user can interact with. The practice typically centers around complex technology systems such as software, mobile devices, and other electronic devices. However, it can also apply to other types of products and services, and even organizations themselves. Interaction design defines the behavior (the "interaction") of an artifact or system in response to its users.

Certain basic principles of cognitive psychology provide grounding for interaction design. These include mental models, mapping, interface metaphors, and affordances. Many of these are laid out in Donald Norman's influential book "The Design of Everyday Things."Academic research in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) includes methods for describing and testing the usability of interacting with an interface, such as cognitive dimensions and the cognitive walkthrough.

Interaction designers are typically informed through iterative cycles of user research. They design with an emphasis on user goals and experience, and evaluate designs in terms of usability and affective influence.

User-centered interaction design

As new technologies are often overly complex for their intended target audience, interaction design aims to minimize the learning curve and to increase accuracy and efficiency of a task without diminishing usefulness. The objective is to reduce frustration and increase user productivity and satisfaction.

Interaction design attempts to improve the usability and experience of the product, by first researching and understanding certain users' needs and then designing to meet and exceed them. (Figuring out who needs to use it, and how those people would like to use it.)

Only by involving users who will use a product or system on a regular basis will designers be able to properly tailor and maximize usability. Involving real users, designers gain the ability to better understand user goals and experiences. (see also: User-centered design) There are also positive side effects which include enhanced system capability awareness and user ownership. It is important that the user be aware of system capabilities from an early stage so that expectations regarding functionality are both realistic and properly understood. Also, users who have been active participants in a product's development are more likely to feel a sense of ownership, thus increasing overall satisfaction.

Relationship with user interface design

Interaction Design is often associated with the design of system interfaces in a variety of media (see also: Interface design, Experience design) but concentrates on the aspects of the interface that define and present its behavior over time, with a focus on developing the system to respond to the user's experience and not the other way around. The system interface can be thought of as the artifact (whether visual or other sensory) that represents an offering's designed interactions. Interactive voice response (Telephone User Interface) is an example of interaction design without graphical user interface as a media.

Interactivity, however, is not limited to technological systems. People have been interacting with each other as long as humans have been a species. Therefore, interaction design can be applied to the development of all solutions (or offerings), such as services and events. Those who design these offerings have, typically, performed interaction design inherently without naming it as such.


Interaction designers often follow similar processes to create a solution (not "the" solution) to a known interface design problem. Designers build rapid prototypes and test them with the users to validate or rebut the idea.

There are six major steps in interaction design. Based on user feedback, several iteration cycles of any set of steps may occur.

1. Design research

Using design research techniques (observations, interviews, questionnaires, and related activities) designers investigate users and their environment in order to learn more about them and thus be better able to design for them.

2. Research analysis and concept generation

Drawing on a combination of user research, technological possibilities, and business opportunities, designers create concepts for new software, products, services, or systems. This process may involve multiple rounds of brainstorming, discussion, and refinement.

To help designers realize user requirements, they may use tools such as personas or user profiles that are reflective of their targeted user group. From these personae, and the patterns of behavior observed in the research, designers create scenarios (or user stories) or storyboards, which imagine a future work flow the users will go through using the product or service.

After thorough analysis using various tools and models, designers create a high level summary spanning across all levels of user requirements. This includes a vision statement regarding the current and future goals of a project.

3. Alternative design and evaluation

Once clear view of the problem space exists, designers will develop alternative solutions with crude prototypes to help convey concepts and ideas. Proposed solutions are evaluated and perhaps even merged. The end result should be a design that solves as many of the user requirements as possible.

Some tools that may be used for this process are wireframing and flow diagrams. The features and functionality of a product or service are often outlined in a document known as a wireframe ("schematics" is an alternate term). Wireframes are a page-by-page or screen-by-screen detail of the system, which include notes ("annotations") as to how the system will operate. Flow Diagrams outline the logic and steps of the system or an individual feature.

4. Prototyping and usability testing

Interaction designers use a variety of prototyping techniques to test aspects of design ideas. These can be roughly divided into three classes: those that test the role of an artifact, those that test its look and feel and those that test its implementation. Sometimes, these are called experience prototypes to emphasize their interactive nature. Prototypes can be physical or digital, high- or low-fidelity.

5. Implementation

Interaction designers need to be involved during the development of the product or service to ensure that what was designed is implemented correctly. Often, changes need to be made during the building process, and interaction designers should be involved with any of the on-the-fly modifications to the design.

6. System testing

Once the system is built, often another round of testing, for both usability and errors ("bug catching") is performed. Ideally, the designer will be involved here as well, to make any modifications to the system that are required.

Aspects of interaction design

ocial interaction design

Social interaction design (SxD) is emerging because many of our computing devices have become networked and have begun to integrate communication capabilities. Phones, digital assistants and the myriad connected devices from computers to games facilitate talk and social interaction. Social interaction design accounts for interactions among users as well as between users and their devices. The dynamics of interpersonal communication, speech and writing, the pragmatics of talk and interaction--these now become critical factors in the use of social technologies. And they are factors described less by an approach steeped in the rational choice approach taken by cognitive science than that by sociology, psychology, and anthropology.

Affective interaction design

Throughout the process of interaction design, designers must be aware of key aspects in their designs that influence emotional responses in target users. The need for products to convey positive emotions and avoid negative ones is critical to product success. [Sharp 2007:184] These aspects include positive, negative, motivational, learning, creative, social and persuasive influences to name a few. One method that can help convey such aspects is the use of expressive interfaces. In software, for example, the use of dynamic icons, animations and sound can help communicate a state of operation, creating a sense of interactivity and feedback. Interface aspects such as fonts, color pallet, and graphical layouts can also influence an interface's perceived effectiveness. Studies have shown that affective aspects can affect a user's perception of usability. [Sharp 2007:184]

Emotional and pleasure theories exist to explain peoples responses to the use of interactive products. These includes Don Norman's emotional design model, Patrick Jordan's pleasure model, and McCarthy and Wright's Technology as Experience framework.

Interaction design domains

Interaction designers work in many areas, including software interfaces, (business) information systems, internet, physical products, environments, services, and systems which may combine many of these. Each area requires its own skills and approaches, but there are aspects of interaction design common to all.

Interaction designers often work in interdisciplinary teams as their work requires expertise in many different domains, including graphic design, programming, psychology, user testing, product design, etc (see below for more related disciplines). Thus, they need to understand enough of these fields to work effectively with specialists.


The term "interaction design" was first proposed by Bill Moggridge [ [ Integrate business modeling and interaction design] ] and Bill Verplank in the late 1980s. To Verplank, it was an adaptation of the computer science term "user interface design" to the industrial design profession. [ [ Bill Verplank home site] ] To Moggridge, it was an improvement over "soft-face", which he had coined in 1984 to refer to the application of industrial design to products containing software (Moggridge 2006).

In 1989, Gillian Crampton-Smith established an interaction design MA at the Royal College of Art in London (originally entitled "computer-related design" and now known as "design interactions"). In 2001, she helped found the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, a small institute in Northern Italy dedicated solely to interaction design; the institute moved to Milan in October 2005 and merged courses with Domus Academy.Today, interaction design is taught in many schools worldwide.

ee also

*User-centered design
*Human–computer interaction
*Industrial design
*Interface design
*Interaction design pattern
*User experience design
*Information Architecture


*(2007). In Helen Sharp, Yvonne Rogers, & Jenny Preece, Interaction Design - beyond human-computer interaction (2nd Edition ed., pp. 181-217). John Wiley & Sons.

Further reading

*Marion Buchenau & Jane Fulton Suri, "Experience Prototyping", DIS '00, ISBN 1-58113-219-0/00/0008.
*Alan Cooper, Robert M. Reimann & David Cronin: "About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design" (3rd edition), Wiley, 2007, ISBN 0-4700-8411-1.
*Stephanie Houde & Charles Hill, "What Do Prototypes Prototype?" in "Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction" (2nd ed.), M. Helander, T. Landauer, and P. Prabhu (eds.), Elsevier Science B. V, 1997.
*Matt Jones & Gary Marsden: "Mobile Interaction Design", John Wiley & Sons, 2006, ISBN 0-470-09089-8.
*Brenda Laurel & Peter Lunenfeld: "Design Research: Methods and Perspectives", MIT Press, 2003, ISBN 0-262-12263-4.
*Bill Moggridge, "Designing Interactions", MIT Press, 2007, ISBN 0-262-13474-8.
*Donald Norman: "The Design of Everyday Things", ISBN 0-465-06710-7.
*Jef Raskin: "The Humane Interface", ACm Press, 2000, ISBN 0-201-37937-6.
*Dan Saffer: "Designing for Interaction", New Riders, 2006, ISBN 0-321-43206-1.

External links

* [] - A peer-reviewed encyclopedia, a comprehensive bibliography, and a calendar of interaction design events
* [ Bruce Tognazzini's First Principles of Interaction Design]
* [ Design Patterns in Interaction Design]
* [ Designing Interactions: Interviews] - conversations with key figures in interaction design
* [ Introducing Interaction Design - Boxes and Arrows]
* [ Usability News]
* [ Interaction Design Patterns in Games] - a collection of interaction design pattern describing solutions to common usability and accessibility problems in games.

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