Interactive Design

is the discipline of mixing static graphics, video, text and audio in a non-linier fashion. The practice typically centers around complex technology systems such as software, mobile devices, and other electronic devices. However, it can also apply to other types of products and services. Interactive design defines the behavior (the "interaction") of an artifact or system in response to its users.


Basic principles of cognitive psychology provide the core of interactive design. These include mapping, interface metaphors, and way finding. Many of these are laid out in Donald Norman's influential book The Design of Everyday Things. Academic research in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) includes methods for describing and testing the usability of interacting with an interface, such as cognitive dimensions and the cognitive walk through.

Interactive designers are typically informed through iterative cycles of user research. They design with an emphasis on user goals and experience, and evaluate designs in terms of usability, affective influence and intuitiveness.

<< History

The term interaction design was first proposed by Bill Moggridge and Bill Verplank in the late 1980s. To Verplank, it was an adaptation of the computer science term user interface design to the industrial design profession. To Moggridge, it was an improvement over soft-face, which he had coined in 1984 to refer to the application of industrial design to products containing software (Moggridge 2006).

In 1989, Gillian Crampton-Smith established an interaction design MA at the Royal College of Art in London (originally entitled "computer-related design" and now known as "design interactions"). In 2001, she helped found the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, a small institute in Northern Italy dedicated solely to interaction design; the institute moved to Milan in October 2005 and merged courses with Domus Academy. Today, interaction design is taught in many schools worldwide.


<< Interactive design domains

Interactive designers work in many areas, including software interfaces, (business) information systems, internet, physical products, environments, services, and systems which may combine many of these. Each area requires its own skills and approaches, but there are aspects of interactive design common to all.

Interactive designers often work in interdisciplinary teams as their work requires expertise in many different domains, including graphic design, video and audio editing, animation, programming, psychology, user testing, product design, etc Thus, they need to understand enough of these fields to work effectively with specialists.


<< Affective interaction design

Throughout the process of interactive design, designers must be aware of key aspects in their designs that influence emotional responses in target users. The need for products to convey positive emotions and avoid negative ones is critical to product success. These aspects include positive, negative, motivational, learning, creative, social and persuasive influences to name a few. One method that can help convey such aspects is the use of expressive interfaces. In software, for example, the use of dynamic icons, animations and sound can help communicate a state of operation, creating a sense of interactivity and feedback. Interface aspects such as fonts, color pallet, and graphical layouts can also influence an interface's perceived effectiveness. Studies have shown that affective aspects can affect a user's perception of usability.

Emotional and pleasure theories exist to explain peoples responses to the use of interactive products. These includes Don Norman's emotional design model, Patrick Jordan's pleasure model, and McCarthy and Wright's Technology as Experience framework.


<< User-centered interactive design

As new technologies are often overly complex for their intended target audience, interactive design aims to minimize the learning curve and to increase accuracy and efficiency of a task without diminishing usefulness. The objective is to reduce frustration and increase user productivity and satisfaction.

Interactive design attempts to improve the usability and experience of the product, by first researching and understanding certain users' needs and then designing to meet and exceed them. Again the word "intuitive" comes up.

Only by involving users who will use a product or system on a regular basis will designers be able to properly tailor the usability for the end-user. Involving real users, designers gain the ability to better understand user goals and experiences. (see also: User-centered design) There are also positive side effects which include enhanced system capability awareness and user ownership. It is important that the user be aware of system capabilities from an early stage so that expectations regarding functionality are both realistic and properly understood. Also, users who have been active participants in a product's development are more likely to feel a sense of ownership, thus increasing overall satisfaction.


<< User interface design

Interactive Design is often associated with the design of system interfaces in a variety of media (see also: Interface design, Experience design) but concentrates on the aspects of the interface that define and present its behavior over time, with a focus on developing the system to respond to the user's experience and not the other way around. The system interface can be thought of as the artifact (whether visual or other sensory) that represents an offering's designed interactions..

Interactivity, however, is not limited to technological systems. People have been interacting with each other as long as humans have been a species. Therefore, interactive design can be applied to the development of all solutions (or offerings), such as services and events. Those who design these offerings have, typically, performed interactive design inherently without naming it as such.


<< Social interaction design

Social interaction design (SxD) is emerging because many of our computing devices have become networked and have begun to integrate communication capabilities. Phones, digital assistants iPods, iPhones, a myriad of connected devices from computers to games facilitate talk and social interaction. Social interaction design accounts for interactions among users as well as between users and their devices. The dynamics of interpersonal communication, speech and writing, the pragmatics of talk and interaction--these now become critical factors in the use of social technologies. And they are factors described less by an approach steeped in the rational choice approach taken by cognitive science than that by sociology, psychology, and anthropology.


<< Methodologies

Interactive designers often follow similar processes to create a solution (not the solution) to a known interface design problem. Designers build rapid prototypes and test them with the users to validate or rebut the idea.


These are the six main areas:

1) Design research

Using design research techniques (observations, interviews, questionnaires, and related activities) designers should investigate users and their environment in order to learn more about them and thus be better able to design for them.


2) Research and concept generation

Drawing on a combination of user research, technological possibilities, and business opportunities, designers create concepts for new software, products, services, or systems. This process may involve multiple rounds of brainstorming, discussion, and refinement.

To help designers realize user requirements, they may use tools such as personas or user profiles that are reflective of their targeted user group. From these personae, and the patterns of behavior observed in the research, designers create scenarios (or user stories) or story boards, which imagine a future work flow the users will go through using the product or service.

After thorough analysis using various tools and models, designers create a high level summary spanning across all levels of user requirements. This includes a vision statement and creative brief regarding the current and future goals of a project.


3) Alternative design and evaluation

Once clear view of the problem space exists, designers will develop alternative solutions with prototypes to help convey concepts and ideas. Proposed solutions are evaluated and perhaps even merged. The end result should be a design that solves as many of the user requirements as possible.

Some tools that may be used for this process are flow diagrams. The features and functionality of a product or service are often outlined in a document known as a "schematics". Schematics are a page-by-page or screen-by-screen detail of the system, which include notes ("annotations") as to how the system will operate. Flow Diagrams outline the logic and steps of the system or an individual feature.


4) Prototyping and usability testing

Interactive designers use a variety of prototyping techniques to test aspects of design ideas. These can be roughly divided into three classes: those that test the role of an artifact, those that test its look and feel and those that test its implementation. Sometimes, these are called experience prototypes to emphasize their interactive nature. Prototypes can be physical or digital, high- or low-fidelity.

5) Implementation

Interactive designers need to be involved during the development of the product or service to ensure that what was designed is implemented correctly. Often, changes need to be made during the building process, and interactive designers should be involved with any of the on-the-fly modifications to the design.


6) System testing

Once the system is built, often another round of testing, for both usability and errors ("bug catching") is performed. Ideally, the designer will be involved here as well, to make any modifications to the system that are required.