Wikipedia defines interaction design as “heavily focused on satisfying the needs and desires of the people who will use the product.” Lowgren describes interaction design as “shaping of interactive products and services with a specific focus on their use.”
I majored in mechanical engineering for a whole year in college. To draw a comparison between mechanical engineering and interaction design, engineering is focused on efficiently building products that are structurally stable and function according to the design. While the end user is also considered, the emphasis is more on creating a product that works according to plan.
Interaction design is centered around the user; its not just about creating a structurally sound product, but it also takes into account asthetics of the design the look, feel, and emotion that the product evokes as well as the psychology of the user – does the product look the way the user expects it to? Is the product intutively designed? Is the product usable? Will it be used? By whom and how?
In his article, “The Mouse and WIMP”, Kuhn discusses the failure of first mouse being not about functionality, but it was due to the high learning curve.
“The mouse became one of the primary devices in the system they developed. It used a complex sequence of nouns and verbs. There was an assumption that the user would be trained in this language before they got started. This enabled for the display to do without any real user interface. The user would rarely take their hands off the keyset and mouse to use the keyboard or take their eyes off the screen.”
Principles of Interaction Design
In his book The Design of Everyday Things, Norman describes these design principles:
- Creating conceptual models – Can a user tell how something will work by looking at a model or picture?
- Visibility – What does the user see that indicates how the product is to be used?
“The user needs help. Just the right things have to be visible to indicate what parts operate and how.”
- Mapping – Are the controls for the product where they should?
- Feedback – Are users able to provide information to the designer on why something does/doesn’t work
Similarly, Jonas Lowgren discusses that good interaction design includes asthetics, understanding the task or problem, expressing ideas in tangible forms (models), and creating the conditions for interaction.
While reading this week’s assginments, I couldn’t help but draw a comparison to a project I am working on at my job.
I am on a team that is developing a new website/database system. This process is a great exercise of Normans principles. We are in the internal testing phase of the project which brings to light an interesting disconnect between the functionality created by the designers and the practical use of the site by the testers (ultimately consumers).
During the internal testing, the web designers are basically looking to see whether or not the website they created is functioning the way it should. However, the testers are not designers, and are judging the site from a practical usability viewpoint:
Is the site intuitive?
Do users know how to navigate the site just by looking at it?
Are the contents of the page where users expect them to be?
One of the most recent arguments was around homepage navigation via the product logo. Most web users understand that clicking a company or product logo will redirect them to a main page. There was a lively discussion between the website design team who wanted the logo to direct users to project page, while the website testers preferred the logo redirect users to the main homepage. Ultimately, the testers recommendations were made to the site.
Final Thought on Norman
After reading The Design of Everyday Things I find it difficult not to analyze the objects around me according to what they look like and what they are used for. For example, design flaws in the elevator buttons in my office or the poor design of bathroom stalls in airports.
Anyone else experiencing this now?
“Interaction Design.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interaction_design
Norman, Donald. The Design of Everyday Things. Basic Books: New York; 1988.
Lowgren, Jonas. “Interaction Design” http://www.interactiondesign.org/encyclopedia/interaction_design.html
Kuhn, A.”The Mouse and Wimp” http://aims.muohio.edu/2011/10/27/the-mouse-and-wimp/