What is Interaction Design?

Today in ITC we were given a lesson on Interaction Design from Todd. It was a pretty different subject compared to what we have been doing, although in some ways I believe it is similar to the Innovative Thinking in IT blog we have done previously. I found it very hard to keep up with this subject as we didn’t have much time to go through so much. I haven’t really got a full grasp on this, I’m hoping I will learn more as I go along answering my blog questions 🙂

Now, I have been very confused with this blog because in our blog requirements it says both “interaction” and “interactive” design which are both different things. I have focused more on interaction design so hopefully I did it correctly 🙂

What is Interaction Design?

“…shaping our everyday life through digital artifacts for work, play and entertainment.”
– Gillian Crampton Smith (founder of the Computer-related Design MA at the Royal College of Art in London, which changed to Design Interactions)

“Interaction Design often abbreviated (IxD) defines the structure and behaviour of interactive systems. Interactive Designers strive to create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services that they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances and beyond.”

It all started with Bill Moggridge and Bill Verplank in the mid-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 invented in 1984 to refer to the application of industrial design to products containing software.

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Left: Bill Moggridge                           Right: Bill Verplank


It wouldn’t be for another 10 years before other designers rediscovered the term and started using it.

So what is Interaction Design? Explaining it how I understand it to be, (with the help of research). It is a wide ranging, complex field that pretty much covers all aspects of human emotion and behaviour. It is to create usable, easy to learn, enjoyable interactive experiences between people and devices. It is not how the device behaves it is how people behave. Taking into account the device, the interface, the context, the people (users) etc. An interactive device could be anything from a smartphone, tablet, computer, iPod, MP3 player, it can even be a EFTPOS device. Anything digital or even non-digital we people “interact” with. There are good and bad interaction designs, a good design being one that we can interact with easily, understand easily, pretty much easy to use. Whereas a bad design would be one that is hard to understand and interact with.

I’m going to add the definition of “interactive design” just to be thorough!

Interactive design is defined as a user oriented field of study that focuses on meaningful communication of media through cyclical and collaborative processes between people and technology successful interactive designs have simple, clearly defined goals, a strong purpose and intuitive screen interface.


Example of bad interaction designs



Examples of good interaction design



The differences between the good and bad designs are pretty clear. The bad designs are not only difficult to use but impossible to know what their functions are, not very good affordances. Whereas the good designs each function is clearly stated, the remote is ergonomic, fit’s into a person hand with the more commonly used buttons near a persons fingers.


The definition of affordance is; a visual clue to the function of an object.


353px-Perceivedaffordancesimages (1)
http://psysc613.wikispaces.com/file/view/Affordances.jpg/253439650/Affordances.jpg http://www.danlockton.com/toolkit/images/thumb/Perceivedaffordances.jpg/353px-Perceivedaffordances.jpg

Basically affordances are instructions on the device, item, etc telling you how to use them. As the examples shown above, using words and pictures to show people which way to open the doors and what kind of rubbish to put in which bin. Having an “interactive” device without any affordances is a recipe for disaster, people wouldn’t know what does what, how to operate and it would be a failure. An interactive device needs affordances to ensure the user experiences are the best you can possibly offer. Imagine a world where nothing and I mean NOTHING told you what to do and how to do it, we would be absolutely lost, reeking havoc, wouldn’t be a very easy environment to be in, so affordances are important in everyday life as well as in Interaction Design.

Interaction Design and affordances in IT

Knowing about Interaction Design and affordances are an important aspect when becoming an IT professional because you will deal with a lot of “interactive” devices as well as (depending on where you plan to head in your IT career) designing, testing and operating them. Couldn’t do that very well, without knowing about it would you? We as professionals also need to be able to provide adequate advice to customers, users, co-workers, etc if they come across any problems with their devices. We will obviously be dealing with a great number of desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones as they are all part of being an IT professional. We need to know how to work our way around it all, how to operate it all, knowing what sort of interfaces, features, etc work best with users and how to fix problems of all sorts that occur with these and many other “interactive” devices.

As an IT professional we will definitely need to know about affordances and this also depends on where you head in your IT career whether you need to know how to provide suitable affordances on devices or whether you simply need to know what they mean and be able to explain them to those who don’t know. Not only will you use affordances in IT you will also use them in everyday life. They are everywhere! As an IT professional you don’t really want to be looking unknowledgeable pushing a door when it clearly says pull, so become familiar with affordances IT related and not.

Designed wearable Interactive Device in storyboarding

We were given a task from Todd to design a “interactive” device in storyboarding and post it in our Interaction Design blog. I worked with Angela and Jylesza, who are also doing the BIT and we came up with the “Focal Point” glasses. Made for people who need prescription glasses, but with added features just to make life that little bit easier. I have drawn examples (please take into account that I am not a good drawer), I have also explained all the added features.

“Focal Point” Glasses

Glasses storyboard 1Glasses storyboard 2
I can definitely see why this subject is important to know when becoming an IT professional, you also look at devices a lot differently knowing this subject more indepth. Although I haven’t fully got my head around it I have learnt some interesting things. I am definitely noticing more and less affordances on my devices and of those around me. Whether we are designing, testing, operating devices interaction design will definitely pop up for us “IT folk” in the future.


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