What is Interaction Design (IxD)?

What is Interaction Design (IxD)?
June 1, 2017 Marc Brophy

Differentiating User Experience (UX) design, User Interface (UI) design, Interaction Design (IxD) and User-centered Design (UCD) can be hard. With different design approaches being used interchangeably, the understanding of them all tends to get diluted. This blog post focuses on Interaction Design (IxD), explaining what it is, examples of Interaction Design and the principles of the practice.

 

What is Interaction Design?

Interaction Design is concerned with how Users may operate an interface. In contrast, UI design is more concerned with what the Users actually see on the screen in front of them, and UX design focuses on enhancing the experience of the User overall.

Interaction Design, at its core, focuses on behaviour, i.e. how Users interact with products, such as websites and apps. It accounts for the human elements of actions. Through understanding these actions we can, supported by technology, begin to design meaningful user journeys.

An Example of Interaction Design

An everyday example of Interaction Design is that of doors. According to Brent Manke, most doors go completely unnoticed, precisely because of their good design. However, some doors seem to serve as examples of bad Interaction Design where it is unclear whether to pull or push them. Solutions derived from Interaction Design to address this are:

  • Flat metal panels that denote that the door must be pushed
  • Horizontal metal bars, that prompts us to pull the door

 

Some Interaction Design Principles

Jerry Cao, Kamil Zeiba and Matt Ellis from UXPin outline 5 core concepts which are crucial to Interaction Design in their book “Interaction Design Best Practices: Mastering The Tangibles”.

  1. The first is Goal-Driven Design, which focuses on understanding the specific needs and desires of the end-users
  2. The second is Usability, which aims to make the usability of a system effortless
  3. The third is Affordances and Signifiers. Affordances are cues which suggest what function something serves and Signifiers are things that hint at the Affordance
  4. The fourth is Learnability which is making familiarity and intuition a key part of the system
  5. The fifth is Feedback and Response Time. Feedback can be seen as part of the dialogue between the User and the system as part of an interaction. Response time is a part of this Feedback

 

In Summary

Interaction Design can be seen as designing technological solutions which address the goals of the User in the most effective way. The end result should be an interactive experience for the User which appears fluid and lifelike.

 

For more on IxD, be sure to check out our 4 part blog series, “Interaction Design in Ireland”.

Marc Brophy
Marc is a UX Design Intern at Graphic Mint.