Interaction Design & Its 5 Dimensions

Have you wondered how to design technologies that bring people joy? How to not make their experience frustrating? Then continue reading for this blog will walk you through the 5 dimensions of Interaction Design that focus on the relationship between a system and a user.

Interaction Design & Its 5 Dimensions

Steve Jobs correctly said, "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works".

This quote stresses the importance of having a good interactive design that completes a user's satisfaction with the final product. An Apple product is an excellent example of this.

Interaction design comes under the umbrella of user experience design. In this article, we will explain what interaction design is. We will also go through the principles, elements, and dimensions of interaction design.

So let's get started.

What is Interaction Design?

Interaction Design, also known as IxD, is creating digital products and services that users can interact with. A subset of UX, interaction design, concerns designing digital products that interact with the end-user. It is critical to understand how people behave with technology to succeed in this field.

Identifying how users will interact with technology allows you to predict how the system will interact with the user, recognize problems early on, and discover new solutions.

Difference between Interaction Design and UX Design

After learning about Interaction Design, many people wonder about the difference between Interaction Design and UX Design. The main difference between Interaction and UX Design is that the sole purpose of IxD is how users interact with the system, while in UX Design, usability matters, but does not solely focus on it.

Difference between interaction design and UX design

Elements of Interaction Design

Interaction Design contains some quintessential elements as follows:

Motion

Motion is often a trigger for action. For instance, when your finger clicks on the button. There is motion everywhere on your screen—a website opens, a text gets sent, etc. Without motion, there is no interaction.

Space

Even on the subatomic level, every motion happens in space, even if its boundary is quite vague (Internet). All interaction designers work in 2D and 3D spaces, whether a web page or physical space.

Often, the interaction happens between physical and analog space. For example, you turn the volume of the TV on your remote, and the changes appear on the digital screen.

Time

All the interactions take place over a while. Sometimes, it can be as instantaneous as clicking the mouse. Every movement through space takes time to accomplish. A gamer can confirm that it takes time to press the buttons, eight milliseconds being the fastest.

Interaction designers need an awareness of time. Some tasks can be complicated and take much time. For example, searching for and buying products. Most e-commerce websites require you to log in, and this login remains active for some time. Imagine if the login session expired every few minutes? It would be unlikely that you will buy from that site.

Dimensions of Interaction Design

To fully understand what interaction design involves, the 5D model is helpful. This model was first introduced by Gillian Crampton Smith, an interaction academic. Gillian's concept included only four dimensions, to which Kevin Silver added the fifth one.

Dimensions of Interaction Design

Words

Since interaction design is all about communicating with users, words play a significant role in it. Most people think of writing as putting one word after another. But, there's a lot more to consider while choosing words in design.

A correct word used at the right time can be as powerful as a sword. While writing, if you are not considering whom you are talking to, that is as bad as not writing at all.

Just think of it this way. Suppose your product is for retired people. If you write something that only the young generation can understand, your customers, i.e., the retired people, won't connect with your product.

Therefore, the terminologies you use, the style of writing - everything must be carefully crafted in a familiar way to intended users.

Visual Representation

Visual representation in interaction design represents any graphical elements such as typography, photos, diagrams, and icons that users interact with. These visual representations usually supplement the words used to communicate with users.

Visual representation of UX design

Visual representations are as powerful as words. For example, using an icon your users are familiar with will make them understand what you want to convey in an instant. However, if the visuals fail to catch the user's attention, it is improbable that they will continue to read further.

Physical Objects or Space

This is where the interaction takes place. The user interacts with design through physical objects. For example, users interact with computers and the mouse while sitting in an office cubicle.

Users interact with computers

Good visuals are essential. However, if you do not put the elements correctly, they will not have the desired impact.

Having a cluttered web design hinders users from interacting with the product effectively since they find it tough to interact with the elements.

Designers must keep in mind that physical objects and spacing will differ from device to device. Something that looks good on a laptop would not necessarily look good on mobile.

Moreover, even a person's environment can impact how they interact with a website or application. Are they using it on a moving train? Or are they using it in an office cubicle?

Time

A user's interaction with these first three dimensions is measured in terms of time. Users need to be able to track progress employing motions and sounds.

User Interaction measured in terms of time

Designers must also note the number of times a user spends interacting with the product itself and how they can pick the interaction later.

For example, suppose a user is shopping online. They have added the product to the cart and are proceeding to complete the payment. But, due to some issues, their payment was declined. So, they decide to pay later.

As a result, there must be an option for the user to continue their interaction where they left it. If the user has to start everything from the beginning, they will not buy from the site.

Behavior

Behavior includes action and reaction. In interaction design, behavior defines how users perform activities on websites and applications. How do users operate the products? Moreover, this also includes the reactions of users, such as emotional responses or feedback.

These five dimensions refer to how users interact with the system and communicate with it in interaction design terms.

Principles of Interaction Design

Usability

When talking about the usability of a product, designers need to ask one question. It is "Can users use this product?" Good usability is the fundamental requirement of interactive design.

Now, few things affect the usability of the product/services. They are:

  • Learnability: How fast can users learn to interact with the product?
  • Flexibility: Does the product offer multiple ways for users to interact?
  • Efficiency: How quickly can the user complete the task at hand?
  • Error rate: How frequently does the product fail to perform?
  • Error recovery: Last but not least, how quickly can the system recover from error?
  • Satisfaction: Is the interaction enjoyable for the users? Does it meet their expectations?

When designing actual products, interaction designers familiarize themselves with the user's mental model to create a product that is intuitive to use.

Design for people

When it comes to designing products or services, designers should avoid designing for a theoretical user. The design decision should always be made based on the specific user groups called personas.

The persona encapsulates the specific data on the user group in a way that the designer can understand and relate to.

Design Iteration

A designer knows that their first draft of a design will never be their final product. Hence, most designers create multiple iterations for single problems. Thus, the only way to choose the functional design and reduce the number of design options is through user testing (testing on real people).

The testing phase of a design can sometimes reveal that it does not pass the design phase, which is surprising to many designers. Whenever this happens, they need to return to the whiteboard to create an alternative design.

Ergonomics

As interaction design is all about understanding the interactions between users and products, interaction design has to apply psychology principles.

The goal of this process is to reduce human errors, improve productivity and enhance safety. To achieve this goal, designers use Fitt's law. According to Fitt's law, the time required to move to the target area rapidly is a function of the ratio between the distance to the target and the width of the target.

In simple words, the bigger the object is, the faster users can point towards it.

You can use this approach both through touch in real life, such as with your hand or finger, as well as virtually using a pointing device. Web designers use this law while designing buttons and menus.

Best Practices for Designing Interaction

According to usability.gov, interaction designs should ask the following questions when creating products with interactive elements:

  • What about the appearance gives users the cues about how the product functions?
  • How long is the time between action and product response time?
  • Are you following industry standards?
  • Is the information chunked into seven items at a time?
  • Are the users familiar with the format?
  • What feedback will the user receive after taking action?
  • Does the design have constraints in place to prevent errors?

Interactive Design is about talking with your users. So make sure you are using the best visuals and words to do so. The way users interact with a digital product ultimately shapes the decision and aspects of the user journey.

The interaction design process includes the five dimensions described above: text, images, physical objects/spaces, time, and behavior. A designer's primary role is to simplify a user's experience as much as possible so that information is required at the minimum.

We'd love to know which principle of Interaction Design is most critical to you. Share with us in the comment section below!


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Until then, happy designing!

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