What is interaction design?

Interaction design aims to design things we interact with in an intuitive way so we can use them easily, efficiently, effectively, satisfyingly, etc. Oddly, when interaction design works really well we don’t even notice it. So, to demonstrate what interaction design is it is often effective to show when it breaks down – hopefully through these examples people ‘get it’. Getting it is not the same as reading and memorising a definition but there is more information here if you want to do that: Wiki page.

This is a breakdown which I experienced this morning when ordering a product through the Amazon App on my iPhone. This first screen shot displays when you try to register a new credit card:

AmazonApp photo-1

This second screen shot displays when you start to input information. Can you see a problem with this?

AmazonApp photo-2

What happens when you enter all the information?

If you do nothing you just stay there. If you press the ‘return’ key nothing happens. If you go back it forgets all you card details and you have to start again. What do you do?

The problem here is that the ‘save’ button is now hidden so the user doesn’t know what to do. When we’re at the first screen shot we don’t plan how we’re going to interact with the whole screen, we just hit the ‘select card type’ field and get on with it. Then we get to the end we’re stuck. We don’t even know that a ‘save’ button is hidden by the pop-up keyboard because we didn’t think about it when it was in our field of vision in the first screen shot!

Once you work out it is hidden, then comes the problem of trying to get to it – every field has a keyboard or similar input screen which pops up to obscure the save button, and once you start inputting you cannot just get rid of the input screen part. The ONLY screen that let’s you get at the ‘save’ button after you’ve finished inputting is the ‘select card type’, which is really REALLY unintuitive because this is the first one that you do!

Interaction design is all about noticing these sorts of issues and solving them so users don’t notice them and have to solve them themselves.

If you like this you might also like Microwave Racing – this short engaging video shows how interaction design can really effect even simple tasks that we do everyday.

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