Interaction design solves the lack of functionality crisis that plagued the early internet.  When one went on a website, there was an abundance of sites that were downright unusable and frustrating for the overall user experience.  In comes interaction design and all of the things that one could ever hope to get out of the internet became true.  We will talk about interaction design and the essential elements that make it what it is.

What is Interaction Design?

Interaction designers and interaction design itself are only concerned about two things: the users and the screen.  Interaction design is closely related to user interface design, as it’s solely focused on the user’s interaction with the elements on the website. These can include things like forms, buttons, font, etc.

The main difference between user experience and interaction design is that interaction design as previously stated is only concerned about the usability of the website.  On the other hand, the user experience design is concerned with the entire wheel of emotions the user experiences while using the product.  The two do not contrast; in fact, they complement each other similar to pen and paper.  The interaction designer is essentially the foundational person when it comes to the end user experience.

The Principle of Consistency

Consistency leads to a lot of micro benefits for the user; one of the most significant benefits is the reduction of their cognitive load.  We will go into this later.  An example of having consistency in website design is the top menu where one can access the “Home,” “About Us,” “Contact Us,” etc.  If these buttons were to change to: “Download E-book,” “Check Out Our Affiliate Products,” “We’re Releasing a New Hit Single”, it would increase user confusion and thus their cognitive load.  It’s similar to going into the same neighborhood and having the houses switch locations every single day, it can be quite a frustrating ordeal, and the person may avoid the neighborhood altogether.

Reducing Cognitive Loads

Reducing cognitive loads is one of the most foundational principles in design.  Ever been to a website with buttons everywhere, music playing in the background of a video in which you have to scroll down to the bottom to even see? Or maybe you’re using an app, and there are just way too many menus, simply getting to the next screen requires a tutorial. These are examples of high cognitive load experiences.  In these types of experiences, there are just too many options to process.  The user says: “I don’t have time to learn all of this right now.”, only never to return.

This usually leads to:

  • A high bounce rate
  • Low sales
  • Low search engine rankings
  • Bad overall user experience

Therefore, it’s best to reduce the options for the end user and to give them as few options as possible.  Some suggestions to reduce this are to:

  • Have simple call to actions; tell the user what you want them to do in the next step, as concisely as possible.  No cryptic or hidden messages, just transparent and upfront.
  • Use color and design schemes in which the user is already familiar with.  What is your demographic?  What website do they visit the most?  Try using similar design schemes as those websites.  One of the best ways to stick out on the internet is to be obvious and predictable.

The Dimensions of Interaction Design

Dimensions in interaction design were introduced by Bill Moggridge’s book “Designing Interactions.”  These dimensions include:

  • 1st Dimension: Words, these are what the user reads for understanding.
  • 2nd Dimension: Visual representations including typography, diagrams, graphic art, etc.
  • 3rd Dimension: The physical object and space in which the user interacts.  Traditionally this means a keyboard and a mouse for most users; however, a video game designer may think about gamepads or movement tracking devices
  • 4th Dimension: Time, most specifically, how it affects the 1st two dimensions over time.  Examples would be video, typography, but also includes sound.
  • 5th Dimension: This defines user behavior.  There are various heat map tools that track user’s behavior to give you a great outlook on what may be going on.

In the end, by understanding the basics of interaction design, which include consistency, reducing cognitive load, and understanding the dimensions, one can create a wonderful foundation for an excellent website, web app, or gaming experience for their end user.