Interaction Design

Interaction Design (IxD or ID) is the discipline of defining and creating interactions with technical, biological, environmental and organizational systems, and the observation and categorization of those systems for application elsewhere. Examples of these systems are software, mobile devices, environments, services, and even organizations themselves. Interaction design defines the behaviors or interactions of an object or system over time with its user population.

Interaction designers create products and services that are typically informed by user research, designed with an emphasis on behavior as well as form, and evaluated in terms that include emotional factors instead of mere usability.

Why interaction design?
As products and experiences become more complicated or gain new capabilities, often due to technology, designers face new challenges in helping people (customers, users, audiences, participants) effectively use or experience these solutions. Often, new technologies are created in such a ways as to be more complicated and less clear. Simplifying these offerings, requiring the deletion of capabilities, is not usually effective. Instead, interaction design aims to clarify use and behavior with a minimum of training and optimizing long-term ease of use. This can lead to less frustration, higher productivity, and higher satisfaction for users.

Interaction design improves the usability and experience of the object or system, by first researching and understanding user's goals, expectations, behaviors, and needs and then deliberately designs to meet and exceed these needs and desires for designated user groups.

Relationship with User Interface Design
Interaction Design is often associated with the design of system interfaces in a variety of media (see also: User Interface Design, Interface Design, Experience Design) but concentrates on the aspects of the interface that define and present its behavior over time, with a focus on developing the system to respond to the user's experience and not the other way around. The system interface can be thought of as the artifact (whether visual or other sensory) that represents an offering's designed interactions. Interactive voice response (Telephone User Interface) is an example of interaction design without graphical user interface as a media.

Interactivity, however, is not limited to technological systems. People have been interacting with each other as long as humans have been a species. Therefore, interaction design can be applied to the development of all solutions (or offerings), such as services and events. Those who design these offerings have, typically, performed interaction design inherently without naming it as such.

Interaction design was first proposed by Bill_Moggridge in the late 1980s. It was called "SoftFace" and later renamed "Interaction Design".

Recently, it was acknowledged that interaction design exists in all media, such as events, live shows, and games.

The rise of Internet has uncovered the social dimension of interaction, where interpersonal and social factors are also included in the design of interactions. A school of thought among interaction designers (sometimes called "Social Interaction Design") is that all interaction design is really about creating social connections between people, regardless of the technology used to create that connection.

General Steps in ID

  • User studies and research (often including ethnographic techniques)
  • Creation of Personas/Profiles and Scenarios (use narratives)
  • Wireframing and Flow Diagrams
  • Prototyping and User Testing
  • Implementation
  • System Testing

A key benefit in IxD is the iteration process where the aim is to build quick prototypes and test them with the users to make sure you are in the right path. The sooner you know you are right the better. Fixing mistakes at a later stage are very costly. The book "Interaction Design: beyond Human-Computer Interaction" is an easy start in this area. For design (or user) research techniques, "Design Research: Methods and Perspectives", edited by Brenda Laurel, is a great resource.

Social Interaction Design
Social interaction design (SxD) is emerging due to many of our computing devices have become networked and have begun to integrate communication capabilities. Phones, digital assistants and the myriad of connected devices from computers to games facilitate talk and social interaction. Social interaction design account for interactions among users as well as between users and their devices. The dynamics of interpersonal communication, speech and writing, the pragmatics of talk and interaction--these now become critical factors in the use of social technologies. And they are factors described less by an approach steeped in the rational choice approach taken by cognitive science than than by sociology, psychology, and anthropology.

Virtual world is an example of system which is heavily rely on social interaction design. Social interaction in the community, gathering and teamwork are also some examples of activities can be designed by social interaction design.

Human-robot interaction design
Human-robot interaction design have a long history of using teleoperation to control. However, teleoperated control of robots have some limitations, including:

  • Number of robots a human is able to control simultaneously is limited;
  • Human always focus on a single robot at a time.

Some of the human-robot interaction design increase the autonomy of robots, however it may have some problems such as:

  • Loop syndrome;
  • Over-reliance on automation.

Human-robot interaction design can be quite different from other interaction design on computers, because mobile robots are more independent, looks like real-thing, and interact with real environment.

Social robotics conduct social interaction with human, the interaction design of social robotics are closely related with social interaction design.

From User-centric to practice-oriented design
Product design can be split into two primary axes of interest: functions and users. What does it do, and how is it used? Architects, engineers, mechanical, industrial, and product designers tend to tackle the former. User interface design, user experience design, and interaction designers, along with information architects and usability experts handle the latter. Social interaction designers must still be aware of traditional design concerns, as users must still interact with a technology in order to get through to users at the other end. But the focus shifts to secondary effects of communication technology use.

Technologies can handle both structured and unstructured interactions. Social interaction designers look at how to capture or preserve familiar interaction structures with technologies by embedding sequences and timing, routines and order, roles and positions, and more into their applications. With unstructured interactions, they look for emerging practices among users. IM'ing conventions and online community ethics have emerged because all social interaction requires conventions. These conventions inform users about what's going on, which in turn helps them choose how to proceed; it's this phenomenon that the social interaction designer wants to anticipate while s/he builds out a social networking system.

We go from user-centric to practice-oriented concerns:

User-centric concerns

  • use value and utility
  • needs
  • goals
  • success and failure

Practice-oriented concerns

  • sign and symbolic value
  • self-presentation and performance
  • social behaviors
  • etiquette and norms
  • couples, groups and communities
  • structured interactions
  • routines, sequencing, temporal organization

People communicate with one another very differently than they interact with technologies. Meaning does not exist as something fixed and stable, but is achieved through the mutual (and unfolding!) efforts of those who produce it. The content of a communication may use language, which has its rules, but what's exchanged among people in an interaction may have little to do with what's actually said!

It's this "meta" level of communication, the features of face and performance, turn-taking and attention-giving, timing, transactions, exchanges, and all that we do while we're talking, and with our talk, that the social interaction designer must attend to. Talk technologies and talk systems distort interactions and transform social situations by amplifying some attributes of an exchange while bracketing others. For example, web-based applications (social software, blogging, IM and chat, etc) store communication and often provide means to search and browse it. This artificially preserves "conversations," holding out their conclusions and enabling participation any time and from any place.

Consider corporate intranets, groupware, project management and communication tools, which are designed to facilitate and promote employee communication: by coordinating team efforts, embedding collaboration into communication tools, and by capturing knowledge, they too produce a suspended communication "space" that's out of synch with time (tools often being asynchronous). And more and more kinds of interactions are finding their way into mediated formats, from video chats (think porn) to online gaming. We don't yet know what it means to a culture and to a society for members to be able to conduct so much of their activities with others without face-to-face interactions. But we do know that well-designed communication technologies must account for a whole new set of factors.