Interaction Design is an essential element in the overall experience and satisfaction that a user receives from a product. So what exactly is interaction design? Is it similar to UX? What does an interaction designer do to improve the user experience?

Through this blog, let us find the answers to the above and dive a little deeper into the topic.

What is User Interaction Design?

User Interaction Design (IxD) refers to the design of interactive elements and services of a product. It is the effort designers put into creating meaningful relationships between people and the products and services they use.

While designing IxD, the designer focuses more on the way users interact with the product than the product itself. Therefore, thorough user research, which includes a deep understanding of the user’s needs, limitations, expectations, and so on, would require a designer to customize the output accordingly.

Important Principles To Add Into Your IxD

Since User Interaction differs according to the products being used, it is not easy to list all the principles. Here we have listed out the standard and widely used principles of IxD.

Goal-driven Design

In this type of design style, problem-solving capability holds the highest priority. This approach focuses on satisfying the needs and desires of the users, which is ultimately the goal of interaction design.

Good Usability

Usability, one of the UX design principles, defines how well the users can use the product. Good usability is a fundamental requirement of interaction design. Below are four things that have a direct impact on usability.

  • Learnability defines how easily a new user learns to interact with the product
  • Efficiency defines how quickly users can perform tasks
  • Error Rate defines the amount of errors users make while interacting with the product
  • Error Recovery defines how quickly users recover from the error

Designers also familiarize themselves with the user’s mental model, which is the mental perception of the product in the user’s mind. Understanding this model enables them to create a UX design system that feels intuitive.

Ergonomics

Interaction designers apply Ux design psychological principles when designing products. This process aims to reduce human error, increase productivity, and enhance the safety of interaction. Designers also use a predictive model of human movement, which is the time required to get to the target quickly and is calculated by the ratio between the distance to the target and the width of the target. This model, also called Fitt’s law, is used to model the act of pointing and can be applied when the UI element is touched.

Positive Emotional Responses

Designers must create designs that influence positive emotional responses. Elements like color palette, fonts, animations, and so on are used to trigger this response.

Design For People

Designers should continually evaluate their design decisions by focusing on a particular user group. Personas are a great tool to do this. By using personas that encapsulate critical data about a user group, designers can better understand and relate to the users and, in return, create better product behavior.

Design Patterns

Designers can address interaction problems using patterns that are solutions for particular contexts. By modifying existing patterns, designs can create solutions that fit well to the context in use.

Design Iterations

Interaction design is an iterative process as human interactions with products can vary. Designers may find multiple solutions for a single interactive problem. Designers must validate the product through testing to decide on a single or lesser number of options. This process may prove the assumptions made by designers wrong and will have to redesign the solution repeatedly, making the process iterative.

Benefits of An Effective IxD

The idea behind interaction design is to create efficient and optimized products that enable users to achieve their end goal in the best possible way. Here are 4 basic benefits of using Interaction design when creating products.

Clear Communication

One of the major benefits of user interaction design is that it helps in establishing clear communication with the users. Using words and visual elements effectively in a product design enables better interaction and communication with the audience.

Compliments UX Design

IxD is not just an independent design, but rather, complements the user experience design as well. While designing IxD, interaction designers also follow some of the UX design processes.The goal of an interaction designer is not just to provide a better user experience but to choreograph the interaction between the user and the product. To understand the target audience better and create satisfying designs, a good interaction designer must have a vast knowledge of user experience design as well.

Saves Time And Money

Another great benefit of interaction design is that it helps to save a lot of time and money. Interaction design is a practical process that runs several tests after the design is finished, to make sure that the design achieves its goals and is simple and easy to use. IxD can help you calculate the exact time and resources required to finish the product. The continuous tests run in IxD helps you save time by eliminating experiment features that fail repeatedly.

Trigger Emotional Response

An effective interaction design can affect perceptions of usability. It has the power to trigger an emotional response among the users. By understanding the audience and identifying the type of content that will spark emotional response among them, designers can incorporate them and make the user experience even better.

The Relationship Between Interaction Design And User Experience

The term “interaction design” may seem interchangeable with “user experience design”. Even though there is a huge overlap between the two and they complement each other, IxD and UxD are not synonymous.

The key difference between user interaction design and user experience design is in the way designers think about users. Interaction designers focus on the moment when a user interacts with the product and tries to improve the interactive experience. User experience designers on the other hand, focus on all the user-facing aspects of the product.

In other words, interaction design is a specialization of user experience.

Primary Roles Of An Interaction Designer

An interaction designer is the person that helps the design, development, creative or marketing team to form design strategies, identify key interactions of the product, create samples for testing concepts and have updated knowledge on technology and trends that will impact users.

Design Strategies

An interaction designer needs to know who they are designing for and the goals of the users. This information is mostly provided by the user researcher and in turn, interaction designers assess these goals and develop design strategies either independently or as part of a team.

A design strategy will help designers have a common understanding of the interaction that needs to take place to facilitate user goals.

Wireframes Of Key Interactions

After understanding the strategy motivating a design, designers can begin sketching the interfaces that can facilitate the required interactions. This process can be done in many ways depending on the comfort and workflow of the designer. They can either use erasable boards, letter pads or even web applications or a combination of them all to create the structure. Designers can also work individually or as a team in this process.

Prototypes

After the wireframes of the interaction design is complete, the next step is to create prototypes or samples that can be run for testing issues.

Stay Current

One of the hardest parts of being an interaction designer is how fast the industry changes. Different designers take different directions of design and therefore, users expect new kinds of interactions in the products they use. A good interaction designer responds to this evolution by constantly exploring the web for new interactions and taking advantage of new technologies, while still ensuring that the design meets the user’s needs and goals.

Interaction designers work with UX and visual designers to ensure that all interaction patterns in a product are implemented correctly. One of the common traits of interaction designers is a thirst to know how things work and an ability to visualize and play with elements and concepts in new ways.

The 5 Key Dimensions Of IxD

The interaction designs work with five dimensions of IxD, a useful model for understanding IxD. Gillian Crampton Smith, an interaction design academic, first introduced four dimensions and later, Kevin SIlver extended his model with the fifth dimension. IxD involves-

1D: Words

Words, especially those used in interactions like buttons and labels, must be meaningful and easy to understand. They must communicate information to users but should not contain too much information to the extent it overwhelms them.

2D: Visual Representations

The graphical elements like images, typography and icons that users interact with come under this category. These elements are additionally used with words to communicate information to users.

3D: Physical Objects/ Space

The objects like smartphones, laptops, mouse and so on that users use to interact with a product, and the space or place from where they interact affect the interaction between the user and product.

4D: Time

This dimension refers to media like animation, videos, sounds, and so on, that change with time.

Motion and sound play a crucial role in giving visual and audio feedback to user’s interactions. The amount of time a user spends interacting with the product, which includes if users can track their progress or resume their interaction later, is also of concern.

5D: Behavior

This dimension includes the mechanism of the product. In other words, it refers to how the previous four dimensions define interactions of the product. Behavior also includes user’s reactions like emotional responses or feedback for the product.

Important Tools Used In IxD Development

Interaction designers use a number of tools to get their work done. With one of their important goals being communication via conversation, interaction designers are required to communicate well. Here are some of the sampling tools designers use to facilitate conversations.

Balsamiq Mockups

This tool is an Adobe Air app that can be used to make interaction wireframes easily. This application provides users with a number of interaction design patterns that are extensive to contemporary application design. The app has a simple interface with hand drawn style for elements and comic sans as font face.

InVision

This is a free web and prototyping tool for Mac and Windows. inVision integrates with Photoshop, Sketch and other applications to facilitate better communication. A main feature of this tool is availability of a 2D navigable platform where designers can upload wireframes and string them together via hotspots. This tool also provides commenting options and using LiveShare, InVision’s real-time presentation tool, the app enables live whiteboarding.

LucidChart

This is a flexible diagramming software for everything from Android and iOS experiences to flowcharts, journey maps, wireframes and site mockups. This software also offers helpful integration with softwares like Google Suite, InVision and so on.

Patternry

Patternry is a tool that allows teams of interaction designers to share and store theri design and code assets in one central location ie; the library. Patternry also provides dozens of patterns for common interactions and modules that can be used by beginners in the field.

Sketch

Sketch is a design tool for Mac which is best used for icon or medium-to-high fidelity mockups. This tool is a lightweight alternative to Adobe Photoshop and offers layers, grids and artboards. In short, everything an interaction designer requires to create wireframes and mockups with some visual additions, are available in Sketch.

Axure

This is the best interaction design tool in the market. Axure offers everything from more robust functionalities and built-in collaboration and sharing, to the ability to easily convert a wireframe to a prototype. One downside of the tool is its slow learning curve due to the high amount of functionalities it offers.

3 Practical Examples Of IxD

Heer are some of the examples of user interaction design in real-life.

Pull-to-refresh

This interaction can be found in almost any modern mobile app. Most of the time this interaction is used to refresh a screen, but through the years it has evolved to be used for other actions.

Cards

These are a UI pattern which takes related pieces of information and places them within a container or “card”. This pattern has become more popular over the last few years on mobile and desktop platforms. Cards can be super handy for organizing large sets of information and can enable users to easily scan and differentiate the content on a page.

Swipe For Yes Or No

This interaction was initially popularized by Tinder, a dating app, which allows you to swipe right to indicate you like a person’s profile, and left if you don’t. This interaction has evolved and infiltrated many modern apps.

Swipe left or right interaction plays on a fundamental psychological principle in humans called Hick’s Law, which states that the more options a user has on the screen, the harder it will be for them to choose an option. This interaction only provides users with a single content and a yes or no option, making it easier for them to make the decision and move forward.

Wrapping Up

Digital design is a conversation between the product and its users. When an interaction designer takes note of this key point and designs the interactions in a way that facilitates this communication, he wins.

The ultimate goal of an interaction designer is to create simplified user experiences that require as little information and effort as possible. So take notes and get started right away!

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