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What is Interaction Design?

Interaction design is an important component within the giant umbrella of user experience (UX) design. In this article, we’ll explain what interaction design is, some useful models of interaction design, as well as briefly describe what an interaction designer usually does.

A simple and useful understanding of interaction design

Interaction design can be understood in simple (but not simplified) terms: it is the design of the interaction between users and products. Most often when people talk about interaction design, the products tend to be software products like apps or websites. The goal of interaction design is to create products that enable the user to achieve their objective(s) in the best way possible.

If this definition sounds broad, that’s because the field is rather broad: the interaction between a user and a product often involves elements like aesthetics, motion, sound, space, and many more. And of course, each of these elements can involve even more specialised fields, like sound design for the crafting of sounds used in user interactions.

As you might already realise, there’s a huge overlap between interaction design and UX design. After all, UX design is about shaping the experience of using a product, and most part of that experience involves some interaction between the user and the product. But UX design is more than interaction design: it also involves user research (finding out who the users are in the first place), creating user personas (why, and under what conditions, would they use the product), performing user testing and usability testing, etc.

The 5 dimensions of interaction design

The 5 dimensions of interaction design(1) is a useful model to understand what interaction design involves. Gillian Crampton Smith, an interaction design academic, first introduced the concept of four dimensions of an interaction design language, to which Kevin Silver, senior interaction designer at IDEXX Laboratories, added the fifth.

1D: Words

Words—especially those used in interactions, like button labels—should be meaningful and simple to understand. They should communicate information to users, but not too much information to overwhelm the user.

2D: Visual representations

This concerns graphical elements like images, typography and icons that users interact with. These usually supplement the words used to communicate information to users.

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The WebRecital is a dedicated User Interface/User Experience professionals who come together to provide design and research workshops, portfolio reviews, and educational outreach to the greater Seattle area.
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