What is…Interaction Design?

Interaction Design = The design of the interaction between users and products.

Sweet, well that was easy. If you’re reading this you’re now ready to be a pro!

Work it, Brad!

Just kidding, it goes a bit deeper than that, so please keep reading!
This article is my attempt to give an overview of Interaction Design with some details, but hopefully not enough to be overwhelming.

Let’s start with some basic vocab and expand from there:

  1. Interaction = the flow between an action and a reaction

So, putting those together I guess we can say that Interaction Design is really the creation of a tangible flow between an action (taken by the user) and a reaction (given by the product and/or user).

Interaction Design does not have to be digital, but in most cases in the tech world it refers to software such as applications or websites.

Just like most design disciplines, the goal is to create products that enable users to achieve their objective(s) in the best way possible.

The 5 Dimensions of Interaction Design

The 5 dimensions of interaction design were pioneered by Gillian Crampton Smith and Kevin Silver.

1st Dimension — Words

  • Words are interactions
Button Labels are examples of words as interactions

2nd Dimension — Visual Representations

  • Visual representations supplement words and help communicate information to users
The Food Pyramid is a great example of a visual representation that communicates information with words and images

3rd Dimension — Physical Objects or Space

  • Physical Objects = With what tangible tool will a user interact?
    Examples include: laptop touchpad, mouse + keyboard, smartphone
Woman writing with her pen and notebook (physical objects) at a desk in a house (physical space). Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

4th Dimension — Time

In my opinion, time can be interpreted in a couple different ways:

  1. How much time will a user spend interacting with a product?
    - For these interactions, can users track their progress/resume interaction at a later time?
Progress bars on Youtube videos clearly let you know how long you’ve been watching, how much time remains, and let you know you can pause and resume at a later time if needed. By the way, this album is totally dope.

2. Media that changes with time. It provides visual/audio feedback to interactions.
Examples include: animations, videos, sounds

Video Game loading screens provide plenty of feedback

5th Dimension — Behavior

  • How do users interact with / operate a product?

Alright, that is a quick overview of Interaction Design. This is the first article in a series that will cover 14 different topics that UX Designers should be familiar with in order to have a well-rounded knowledge base.

For more in-depth information on Interaction Design, I highly recommend you check out the Interaction Design Foundation

If you’d like to reach out and interact, feel free to connect on LinkedIn! I’m usually happy to have a conversation :)

Open minded + curious UX Designer. I like taking deeper dives to understand and summarize topics so that other people don’t have to do as much work (hopefully).