Most companies understand why they need a strong web presence, but they often leave the users out of the process. In a competitive digital landscape, businesses must do all they can do to assure a seamless user experience (UX).
In our digital age, a company’s website is often the first interaction a person has with a company’s brand. It is what they see long before they enter a brick-and-mortar store (if there is any!). According to Chain Store Age, 39% of customers become frustrated and leave websites when they have too many options to choose from.
How can businesses ensure they are providing positive experiences across digital platforms, enhancing the user journey, and influencing buying decisions?
The Secret To Better UX Lies In Interaction Design
Interaction design offers yet another way of considering your audience. From a design standpoint, it is an important concept that falls under the user experience umbrella. However, interaction design also branches into other areas (some of which also overlap with UX) such as content strategy, visual design and information architecture. Interaction design addresses the communication between a company’s products and users. If a website has well-thought and well-executed interactions, it means a user can efficiently achieve his or her goals.
Here are some of the basics of interaction design that you should be aware of – from the easy to the complex.
The Five Dimensions of Interaction Design
Interaction design has five basic principles or what developers often call dimensions. These are:
- 1D: Words
- 2D: Visual Representations
- 3D: Physical Objects or Space
- 4D: Time
- 5D: Behaviour
We will now explain each dimension in more detail:
Dimension 1: Words
You may think writing is putting one word in front of the other, but there is a lot to consider when you choose your words. Use them well, and users will organically experience a positive way of interacting with your business. If you do not consider whom you are talking to when you write, it can be just as bad as not writing at all. Words on a website should be simple to understand, but at the same time, they should convey much meaning – and they should talk to the right demographic. The rule of thumb here is to use concise language and do not have much, if any, fluff.
Dimension 2: Visual Representations
Visuals in the digital space include anything that is not a word, such as typography, photography, icons, diagrams and any graphical elements. Images are the first way to grab a user’s attention. If you fail to do so with a pic, then they will not likely read the words you worked so hard to create. Visual representations are, indeed as powerful as words. Users should be able to interact with them seamlessly using only their intuition.
Dimension 3: Physical Objects or Space
Creating good visuals is essential, but if you do not put them in the right place, they will not have the same impact. Cluttered web design will affect the interaction negatively, as it makes it harder for users to interact with the different elements of websites. Keep in mind that physical objects and spacing will differ from device to device. For example, a company should use a different design on mobile from the standard desktop. Even a person’s physical environment can affect how he or she interacts with a website, so businesses must make these considerations in interaction design, as well.
Dimension 4: Time
Time dimension refers to the idea that media may change over time, and that motion and sound can and do play a crucial role in how a user navigates and interacts with a product. Also, of note is the amount of time a user spends interacting with the product itself as well as how he or she can pick up the interaction later.
Dimension 5: Behavior
Interaction design pays attention to how users perform actions on websites. In other words, how do the previous four elements work together to influence a user’s interaction with a product? The behaviour dimension also looks at emotional feedback from the users and forms new recommendations from feedback to enhance the user experience.
Apart from these five, widely-accepted dimensions, the following laws also play a role in creating a positive interaction:
Psychologist William Edmund Hick posited a simple, yet groundbreaking notion: the more choices a person has in front of them, the longer it takes to decide. A user must weigh more options, which can lead to confusion. In other words, having many choices may be healthy in some sectors, but it is not a good thing when it comes to interacting with digital products. Interaction design allows viewers to make simple decisions, sections at a time. While a user may choose from many options on a website, most e-commerce stores apply Hick’s law to segment choices and categorise products for easier searching, clicking, and buying.
Introduced in 1954, Fitts’ law first applied to the performance of workers on an assembly line. Though it is a complex equation of the relation of an object’s distance, speed, and proximity, the conclusion is that the bigger an object is, the faster a person can point it out. Web designers apply Fitts’ law to the creation of buttons and menus, with the intent of making it simple to push and navigate, whether a user is navigating with a finger or a cursor.
The former vice president of Apple, Larry Tesler, once stated that every application has a certain amount of complexity, to the point it can no longer simplify. At that point, it is up to the designer to move as much complexity as possible to the back-stage processes, away from the user. This makes the user design minimalist and easy to navigate, and ties nicely into Hick’s law.
The Difference Between Interaction Design and UX Design
After learning about interaction design, many people wonder what the difference is between that practice and user experience design. While there is an overlap, the two have some notable differences.
In user experience design:
- The usability of a website matters but is not the sole objective of user experience.
- A digital product such as a website or app must appeal to a user on many levels regarding UX.
- Specifications and behind-the-scenes development help a user understand and navigate a site seamlessly.
- A user ideally attains value from using the product.
In interaction design, many of the same principles apply. However, there are a few distinctions:
- Interaction design focuses solely on how a user interacts with a product.
- Interaction design emphasises the process by which a person communicates with a product.
- An interaction designer generally has more duties to fulfil in the creation of a design: for example, consumer research, feedback receiving, and field study.
In other words, interaction design is a specialisation of user experience, in the sense that it overlaps with it. A UX designer concerns himself or herself more with the product of a design, while an interaction designer focuses on the processes that create communicative user experiences.
Consider, for example, that a website is a new amusement park. The interaction designer creates the plan for the park, builds roads that connect rides, and considers how traffic will move through the park. The user experience designer, on the other hand, will gather feedback from the customers and make recommendations that enhance the park-going experience.
When you treat interaction design as a way to communicate with your audience, you win. Interaction design is about talking to your audience. Make sure you are using the best words and visuals to do so. Remember, the way a person interacts with a digital product (be it a website, an app or the like), ultimately shapes the decisions and other aspects of the user journey.
Make it easy, and make it fun. Interaction design pays attention to five dimensions: words, images, space, time, and behaviour. The goal of an interaction designer is to create simplified experiences for users that require as little information as possible. By applying the basic principles of interaction design, a company can make its digital products more intuitive, create more meaningful interactions, and ultimately create more favourable business outcomes.
Want to learn more?
If you’re interested in the intersection between UX and UI Design, then consider to take the online course UI Design Patterns for Successful Software and alternatively Design Thinking: The Beginner’s Guide. If, on the other hand, you want to brush up on the basics of UX and Usability, you might take the online course on User Experience (or another design topic). Good luck on your learning journey!
(Lead image: Depositphotos)