Interaction Design: Patterns, Process & Tools

Instructor: David Gloag
We interact with everything, so it makes sense that product developers would focus on those interactions. In this lesson, we'll look at interaction design; patterns, process, and some of the tools used.

Designing Experience

We love to experience things. We want to pick up that gizmo that catches our eye, we want to hear the new song from our favorite artist, and we want to see the latest blockbuster movie in our local theatre. It's only natural; we live for experience. But is the basic experience enough? Surely, we are more discerning than that. Not only do we want the experience, but we want it to be as intense, or significant, as possible. As a result, product developers place a lot of time and effort into an area known as interaction design.

What is Interaction Design?

Interaction design is the process of tailoring how a person perceives, uses, and reacts to a given product or service, with a goal in mind. We often see examples of this. Think for a moment of a real estate agent trying to sell your home. The agent asks for your home to be clean, that everything is put in its place, and that the windows are open. They may even ask that you have bread baking in the oven when a potential buyer stops by. Everything is meant to give the impression that the space is open and inviting. What's really happening is that the agent is designing an interaction, with the goal of selling your home.

What are Interaction Design Patterns?

An interaction design pattern is a template that describes a commonly encountered interactive scenario. For example, software applications commonly deal with the situation where a user has made a choice, and later decides that the choice was wrong. A pattern for this scenario might include the following steps:

  • Click the back or undo button.
  • Restore any modified data to the state it was before the choice was made.
  • Restore the screen to the state it was before the choice was made.
  • Have the application scan for user input, like it was before the errant choice was made.

It is important to realize that these steps will change slightly depending on the application. It is a pattern or template, and you are meant to reuse and adjust it to suit your specific needs. The actual wording is unimportant; it's the idea that counts. Also note that there are many patterns out there. They cover actions like copy, paste, and undo.

What is the Interaction Design Process?

The interaction design process involves four basic steps. They are:

  • Gathering Requirements - Designers determine an overall goal or objective, and WHAT needs to be focused on or done. In the real estate example, this would be what needs to be cleaned, what needs to be organized, and what needs to be baked.
  • Design Creation - In this step, designers determine HOW the requirements will be met. In the real estate example, this would be how many of the rooms need to be cleaned, how the rooms will be organized, and how the baking will be presented.
  • Prototyping - One or more mock-ups are created and tested by designers. In the real estate example, this would mean trying various room organizations, and different types of baking.
  • Evaluating Results - The impressions established by each mock-up are analyzed with respect to the overall goal. In the real estate example, the agent would walk through the house after each mock-up phase, and determine which one gives the most favorable impression.

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