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What is Interaction Design? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: David Gloag
Experience shapes the way we see our world, whether that be through talking with people, or through using objects. In this lesson we'll look at User Experience, and a specific part, Interaction Design.

The Quality of Interaction

We interact with everything. With billions upon billions of objects, animals, and people in the world, it is hard to avoid interactions. We interact with the woman on the phone from our doctor's office. We interact with the computers on our desks at work. And we even interact with the neighbor's dog, although not always in a positive fashion. So it's no big surprise that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our interactions. And if interactions are so important, shouldn't there be an area that focuses on it? Well, it turns out, there is. It is called User Experience (UX), and more specifically, Interaction Design.

What is User Experience?

User Experience is the area that focuses on a user's response to outside stimulus. Or to put it another way, how we react to the things that are done, or happen, to us. It can be a very personal thing, as each of us has their own idea of how things should go. As an example, think about the last time you were at a restaurant. Was the hostess friendly? Did they seat you quickly? How was the service? Did the food taste as you expected? All of these questions focus on specific aspects of the meal. And the answers determine how the meal went - or the experience you had.

What is Interaction Design?

Interaction Design is the portion of User Experience that focuses on tailoring a User's Experience to meet a specific set of objectives. If you think about the restaurant example above, Interaction Design might require a hostess to have a smile and a friendly demeanor. Or to have you greeted and seated in a fixed amount of time. For each anticipate interaction, a question or questions would be developed, and a desired set of answers created. These would govern how the interaction proceeds, with the goal of producing a desired outcome.

There are five components to consider for Interaction Design. They are:

  • Words: The choice of words or wording is very specific. It must convey the correct meaning and provide clarity.
  • Visuals: Because of our reliance on eyesight, we tend to notice visual cues first. Therefore, visuals capture attention and quickly convey overall meaning.
  • Objects or Space: This has to do with physical interaction. Is it through voice? Is it tactile? Or is it through filling in boxes on a computer screen?
  • Time: This has to do with how the interaction proceeds from one instant to the next.
  • Behavior: This is concerned with how the interaction proceeds once a choice has been made.

What does Interaction Design Look Like?

As mentioned, Interaction Design is used to control interaction in way that produces a desired outcome. But what does that mean in a practical sense? What does that look like from an Interaction Design perspective? Let's take a look at an actual example. Take the BestBuy.com website. The overall goal of this site is to get you to buy something. They want you to enjoy the experience, so you will come back, and they want it to be a painless as possible. This drives the overall interaction and desired User Experience.

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