Interaction design

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In design, human–computer interaction, and software development, interaction design, often abbreviated IxD, is defined as "the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services."[1]:xxxi,1 Like many other design fields interaction design also has an interest in form but its main focus is on behaviour.[1]:1 What clearly marks interaction design as a design field as opposed to a science or engineering field is that it involves synthesising and imagining things as they might be, more so than focusing on how things are.[1]:xviii

Interaction design is heavily focused on satisfying the needs and desires of the majority of people who will use the product;[1]:xviii other disciplines like software engineering have a heavy focus on designing for technical stakeholders of a project.


The term interaction design was first coined by Bill Moggridge[2] and Bill Verplank in the mid-1980s. It would be another 10 years before other designers rediscovered the term and started using it.[1]:xviii To Verplank, it was an adaptation of the computer science term user interface design to the industrial design profession.[3] 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.[4]

The first academic program officially named as Interaction Design was established at Carnegie Mellon University in 1994 as Master of Design in Interaction Design.[5] When the program started it focused mostly on screen interfaces, but today more on the “big picture” aspects of interaction — people, organizations, culture, service, and system.

In 1990, Gillian Crampton Smith founded the Computer-related Design MA at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, which changed to Design Interactions[6] in 2005, headed by Professor Anthony Dunne.[7] In 2001, Crampton Smith 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. In 2007, some of the people originally involved with IDII set up the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID).

In 1998, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research founded The Interactive Institute - a Swedish research institute in the field of interaction design.

Today, interaction design is taught in many schools worldwide. It is also a topic frequently discussed at conferences such as Gamification 2013 held at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus, where author Stephen P. Anderson discussed Seductive Interaction Design, a fresh approach to designing sites and interactions based on the stages of seduction.[8]


Goal-oriented design

Goal-oriented design (or Goal-Directed™ design) "is concerned most significantly with satisfying the needs and desires of the people who will interact with a product or service."[1]:xviii

Alan Cooper argues in The Inmates Are Running the Asylum that we need to take a new approach to how interactive software based problems are solved.[9]:1 The problems faced with designing computer based interfaces are fundamentally different from the challenges we face when designing interfaces for products that do not include software (e.g. hammers). Alan introduces the concept of cognitive friction, whereby we treat things as human when they are significantly complex enough that we cannot always understand how they behave. Computer interfaces are sufficiently complex as to be treated this way.[9]:22

It is argued that we must truly understand the goals of a user (both personal and objective) in order to solve the problem in the best way possible and that the current approach is much oriented towards solving individual problems from the perspective of a business or other interested parties.


Goal-oriented design as explained in The Inmates Are Running the Asylum advocates for the use of personas, which are created after interviewing a significant number of users.

The aim of a persona is to "Develop a precise description of our user and what he wishes to accomplish." The best method as described within The Inmates Are Running the Asylum is to fabricate users with names and back stories who represent real users of a given product. These users are not as much a fabrication but more so as a product of the investigation process. The reason for constructing back stories for a persona is to make them believable, such that they can be treated as real people and their needs can be argued for. Personas also help eliminate idiosyncrasies that may be attributed to a given individual.[9]:93

Cognitive dimensions

The cognitive dimensions framework[10] provides a specialized vocabulary to evaluate and modify particular design solutions. Cognitive dimensions are designed as a lightweight approach to analysis of a design quality, rather than an in-depth, detailed description. They provide a common vocabulary for discussing many factors in notation, UI or programming language design.

Dimensions provide high-level descriptions of the interface and how the user interacts with it such as consistency, error-proneness, hard mental operations, viscosity or premature commitment. These concepts aid the creation of new designs from existing ones through design maneuvers that alter the position of the design within a particular dimension.

Affective interaction design

Throughout the process of interaction 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.[11] 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 palette, 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.[11]

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

The Five Dimensions of Interaction Design

The dimensions of interaction Design was first introduced in the introduction of the book Designing Interactions. Gillian Crampton Smith stated that there were four dimensions to an interaction design language.[12] A fifth dimension was added by Kevin Silver.[13]

1D Words

This dimension defines the interactions. Words are the interaction that users use to interact with.

2D Visual Representations

The visual representations are the things that the user interacts with on the interface. These may include but not limited to "typography, diagrams, icons, and other graphics"

3D Physical objects or space

The space with which the user interacts is the third dimension of interaction design. It defines the space or objects "with which or within which users interact"

4D Time

The time with which the user interacts with the interface. Some examples of this are "content that changes over time such as sound, video, or animation"

5D Behavior

The behavior defines the users actions in reaction to the interface and how they respond to it.

Interaction Design Association

The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) was created in 2003 to serve the international Interaction Design community. The organization currently has 50,000 members and 140 local groups around the world. It produces Interaction, the annual interaction design conference, and the Interaction Awards.

Related disciplines

Industrial design[14]
The core principles of industrial design overlap with those of interaction design. Industrial designers use their knowledge of physical form, color, aesthetics, human perception and desire, usability to create a fit of an object with the person using it.
Human factors and ergonomics[14]
Certain basic principles of ergonomics provide grounding for interaction design. These include anthropometry, biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology and psychology as they relate to human behavior in the built environment.
Cognitive psychology[14]
Certain basic principles of cognitive psychology provide grounding for interaction design. These include mental models, mapping, interface metaphors, and affordances. Many of these are laid out in Donald Norman's influential book The Design of Everyday Things.
Human–computer interaction[14]
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 walkthrough.
Design research
Interaction designers are typically informed through iterative cycles of user research. User research is used to identify the needs, motivations and behavior of end users. They design with an emphasis on user goals and experience, and evaluate designs in terms of usability and affective influence.
As interaction designers increasingly deal with ubiquitous computing and urban computing, the architects' ability to make, place, and create context becomes a point of contact between the disciplines.
User interface design
Like user interface design and experience design, interaction design is often associated with the design of system interfaces in a variety of media 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.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Cooper, Alan; Reimann, Robert; Cronin, Dave (2007). About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley. p. 610. ISBN 978-0-470-08411-3. Retrieved 18 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Integrate business modeling and interaction design
  3. Bill Verplank home site
  4. *Moggridge, Bill (2007). Designing Interactions. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-13474-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. [1]
  6. RCA Design Interactions Website
  7. [2]
  8. "Stephen Anderson, sandbox environments and why playfulness is the future". Retrieved April 14, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Cooper, Allan (2004). Inmates Are Running the Asylum, The: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity. Sams Publishing. p. 288. ISBN 0-672-32614-0. Retrieved 17 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. T. R. G. Green. "Instructions and Descriptions: some cognitive aspects of programming and similar activities".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 Sharp, Helen; Rogers, Yvonne; Preece, Jenny (2007). Interaction Design: Beyond Human–Computer Interaction (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons. pp. 181–217 [184].<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Moggridge, Bill (2007). Designing Interactions. The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-13474-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Silver, Kevin. "What Puts the Design in Interaction Design". UX Matters. Retrieved 6 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4

Further reading

  • Lal, Raj (2013). Digital Design Essentials: 100 Ways to Design Better Desktop, Web, and Mobile Interfaces. Rockport Publishers. ISBN 1-592-53803-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bolter, Jay D.; Gromala, Diane (2008). Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Transparency. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-02545-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Buchenau, Marion; Suri, Jane Fulton. Experience Prototyping. DIS 2000. ISBN 1-58113-219-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Buxton, Bill (2005). Sketching the User Experience. New Riders Press. ISBN 0-321-34475-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Dawes, Brendan (2007). Analog In, Digital Out. Berkeley, California: New Riders Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Goodwin, Kim (2009). Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services. ISBN 978-0-470-22910-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Houde, Stephanie; Hill, Charles (1997). "What Do Prototypes Prototype?". In Helander, M; Landauer, T; Prabhu, P. Handbook of Human–Computer Interaction (2nd ed.). Elsevier Science.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Jones, Matt & Gary Marsden: Mobile Interaction Design, John Wiley & Sons, 2006, ISBN 0-470-09089-8.
  • Kolko, Jon (2009). Thoughts on Interaction Design. ISBN 978-0-12-378624-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Laurel, Brenda; Lunenfeld, Peter (2003). Design Research: Methods and Perspectives. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-12263-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  • Norman, Donald (1988). The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-06710-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Raskin, Jef (2000). The Humane Interface. ACM Press. ISBN 0-201-37937-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Saffer, Dan (2006). Designing for Interaction. New Riders Press. ISBN 0-321-43206-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links