July 17, 2021
6 mins

What is Interaction Design (IxD)?

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Do you remember the scene from Friends when joey trying to figure out if the naked ugly guy is alive because he didn’t move for so long time and he tried to find a way to poke the guy in order to take reaction from him using old Chinese chopsticks he glued and taped it together to create long poking device! so he finds the solution to create interaction with him and luckily the poking device work and he gets a reaction from the ugly naked guy.

FRIENDS — joeys poking device

In UX Design, the worst experience as a user is not knowing what’s happening during using any app or website, and in our case, the website or the app is the naked ugly guy. sometimes the user tries to figure it out by itself. In other words, there is an act from the user and there is no reaction from the app or the website, sometimes the user tries to find a solution to get useful information from what’s he/she doing but in most cases, the user will be abandoned of the session and closed the app and that is the worst thing for any business.

Interaction design (IxD) is an important ingredient of the user experience recipe and 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, and the goal of interaction design is to create some kind of human conversation between the user and the product to help the user to reach their goal(s) in the best way possible.

interaction design vs ux | Yukti.io

John Kolko — the Author of Thoughts on Interaction Design, has beautifully captured the essence of Interaction Design as

Interaction Design is the creation of a dialogue between a person and a product, system, or service. This dialogue is both physical and emotional in nature and is manifested in the interplay between form, function, and technology as experienced over time.

If you look up interaction design, interaction the word interaction in the Oxford dictionary is the definition is

interaction (between A and B) | interaction (of A) (with B) if one thing has an interaction with another, or if there is an interaction between two things, the two things have an effect on each other.
conversational interaction | isystain

What is interesting is that Interaction Design (IxD) synthesizes and imagines things as they could be while considering to satisfy the users. As we discussed in the beginning that an interactive design is conversational which means that with every input added, there is an action or feedback associated with it.

Through these interactions, we build relationships so what this means is that when you designing, you are having a conversation with the people you are designing the product for, because there’s this back and forth, they tap something on there and it does something back right there’s, this back and forth what interaction design is, and IxD at its core like if you take everything else away you’re creating a conversation that a product or system has with its users, and you know what’s one of the main principles of conversations with people, don’t be awkward right, so make it feel like a natural conversation. Take Airbnb as an example go now and open their app and you will notice how they are using normal human language and how they implemented it on their design so you feel like you have a real conversation with a real person.

Search for a place to stay | Airbnb

Key principle

Interaction design is the discipline of creating products that behave like people.

The 5 dimensions of interaction design

The 5 dimensions of interaction design are a useful model to understand what interaction design involves. In Bill Moggridge’s book of interviews, Designing Interactions, Gillian Crampton Smith, an academic in interaction design, introduced the concept of four dimensions of an “interaction design language.” In other words, these dimensions make up the interactions themselves, and as a result, they make up the communication between a user and the screen. The four original dimensions are words, visual representations, physical objects or space, and time. More recently, Kevin Silver, senior interaction designer at IDEXX Laboratories, has added a fifth dimension, behavior.

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.

3D: Physical objects or space

Through what physical objects do users interact with the product? A laptop, with a mouse or touchpad? Or a smartphone, with the user’s fingers? And within what kind of physical space does the user do so? For instance, is the user standing in a crowded train while using the app on a smartphone, or sitting on a desk in the office surfing the website? These all affect the interaction between the user and the product.

4D: Time

While this dimension sounds a little abstract, it mostly refers to media that changes with time (animation, videos, sounds). Motion and sounds play a crucial role in giving visual and audio feedback to users’ interactions. Also of concern is the amount of time a user spends interacting with the product: can users track their progress, or resume their interaction sometime later?

5D: Behaviour

This includes the mechanism of a product: how do users perform actions on the website? How do users operate the product? In other words, it’s how the previous dimensions define the interactions of a product. It also includes the reactions — for instance, emotional responses or feedback — of users and the product.

5 dimensions of interaction design | Interaction Design Foundation

UX design is about shaping the entire experience of a user while they interact with a product. And Interaction Design is about designing the interactions when the user uses the product ‘at the moment’ so that the user has a pleasant experience. In simple words,’ UX Design encompasses Interaction Design’.

Designing good interaction design would ultimately lead to a good User Experience. Interaction design is focused on ‘at the moment interactions’ when a user interacts with a product with the goal to improve the interactive experience.

However, User experience design deals with all end-to-end user-facing aspects of the product ( touch, feel, interacting, customer service, etc), and ‘moment of interaction’ is just a part of the journey that a user goes through when they interact with a product.

Every design starts with the research

For Example — There’s no point in conducting user research to find what user needs, if interaction designers keep themselves to those needs are kept at arms’ length from UX research outputs.

  • Browse: What is available on the internet about it, who is doing what, or where is the market going.
  • Observe: Are you trying to improve the coffee shop experience? Then visit that cafe. Are you trying to improve buying vegetable experience, then go to Walmart, Target? You cannot know the system by sitting at your desk. Understand the existing experiences. Take notes. Types of observation methods include Fly on the wall, Shadowing, contextual inquiry, undercover agent. Find more about them in Dan Saffer’s book “ Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (Voices That Matter) ”.
  • Talk to people: You will gather insights that you have never expected before. The ‘aha’ moments. Keep the questions open-ended. And try to keep the interview location where the interviewee is most comfortable — where they work, live, eat, etc. Keep it concise.

A few methods include Directed storytelling, Unfocused group, Role-playing, Extreme user interviews, Desk/purse/briefcase tour, and 100 other ways…literally! To learn which methods should be used where check this book to learn more: Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions.

Some last thoughts

The fact that IxD is a subset of UX design doesn’t mean that they are the same process and that they can be interchanged. Moreover, not every UX designer is a good interaction designer — and vice versa.

As Businesses are getting competitive with better products, People are looking for products that can deliver satisfactory experiences. For that reason, both UX and interaction designers must work together in a team to create products that are high on usability and delivers a Pleasant User Experience.