Why Interaction Design Is Important for a UX Specialist

{ 📱 } – Your Design Process Needs to Include These Elements

Photo by Artem Beliaikin.

This article was originally published on UX Designers Club.

Interaction design is a huge part of your design projects. When you think about UX, you need always to remember your user’s interactions with your product.

UX designers tend to think about interaction design only as a prototyping stage. In reality, the interaction includes way more components along with prototyping.

“Interaction design can be understood in simple (but not simplified) terms: it is the design of the interaction between users and products.”

— Interaction Design Foundation

When you think about interaction, the first thing associated is your user’s clicks within your product.

But if you dive deeper, there are five dimensions of interaction design you need to consider for each project.

Content

The major goal of any app or website you work on is to deliver content for the end-user. This is why your concept might be different from one project to another.

As a UX designer, I think about information architecture at the beginning of my design project. I include blocks with different content to highlight particular information on the screen or page.

“Photo and video editing apps have gained some serious traction for touching up photos to look better or slimmer and updating content to make an impression on popular social networks.”

— Peggy Anne Salz in Forbes

Many designers think they work with UX and UI elements only, while interaction design is just a prototyping stage.

If you look at how your users use your concept during the testing stage, you can realize how their behavior changes depending on the content they see.

As a quick example, think about a flow when a user wants to buy an item. How do you think what amount of steps would be more appealing — three or five?

Designers always try to simplify steps because the simpler the product, the more people can use it.

So in this example above, your user will prefer a flow with three steps over five because of the simplicity and faster completion.

As you can see, content is a direct part of the interaction design and affects your user’s behavior. So it’s worth thinking about content not only as information but also as an interactive part.

Visuals

A lovely part of any designer is creativity. You and I love to check Dribbble or Behance works to get inspiration, the latest tendencies, or just relax and enjoy art.

So when it comes to your project, you’re full of inspiration, motivation, and want to create a unique UI for your concept. You try different styles, ask for feedback and compare your ideas to competitors.

Sometimes your product is very heavy and includes a lot of data. It’s a perfect time to use charts, pies, and infographics to present your data in an elegant and friendly way.

“In 2018, 63.5% of surveyed companies said that between 75 and 100% of their content contained visuals. Only one year later, 74% of companies now rely on visual data marketing — an increase of 10.5%!”

— YEC in Forbes

When I started my career, I remember that I wasn’t concentrated on UX goals quite enough. Instead, my brain generated many UI solutions. I hoped that I created a unique style every time.

Today, I still create unique UIs, but I think about UX first. When you’re a junior designer, you might need more practical experience to understand that your users don’t need fancy curves or other illustration elements.

What your users need instead is a minimal solution with an elegant style. Of course, there are some exceptions, like gaming products.

By gaining more experience, you start to use visuals as a design solution and as a UX one. UX/UI designers aren’t too artistic in most cases. Simple visuals can be as fantastic as artistic creativity.

This is why your visuals are part of interaction design. It’s not only a visual part but the presentation of information in a user-friendly way.

Physical Objects

UX designers don’t create physical products, but their design solutions depend on devices.

Eight years ago, when I was a junior designer, I had a phone with buttons. Do you remember those simple apps? They also were created by designers. When the era of touch phones arrived, it was a rise of the new design solutions.

The next shift was a new technology boom, which is the voice user interface and VR. Today we already have many AR products, and there is something new — robotics, drones, and all previous technologies together.

“By 2025, it’s predicted that the average U.S. home will have 20 connected devices.”

— Shiv Sundar in Forbes

With technology development, UX designers depend on already developed solutions and the ones they need to invent.

While everything seems to be invented already, something new is happening in the tech industry each year. You never know what will happen tomorrow.

If flying machines were a fantasy before, we have multiple prototypes today. I wouldn’t surprise if a DeLorean from “Back to the Future” movie will be invented one day as well.

With each invention, you need to adapt your design solution to a physical product your users will interact with.

That’s why staying up-to-date with the latest news, technology progress and your circle is important.

Physical Objects

UX designers don’t create physical products, but their design solutions depend on devices.

Eight years ago, when I was a junior designer, I had a phone with buttons. Do you remember those simple apps? They also were created by designers. When the era of touch phones arrived, it was a rise of the new design solutions.

The next shift was a new technology boom, which is the voice user interface and VR. Today we already have many AR products, and there is something new — robotics, drones, and all previous technologies together.

“By 2025, it’s predicted that the average U.S. home will have 20 connected devices.”

— Shiv Sundar in Forbes

With technology development, UX designers depend on already developed solutions and the ones they need to invent.

While everything seems to be invented already, something new is happening in the tech industry each year. You never know what will happen tomorrow.

If flying machines were a fantasy before, we have multiple prototypes today. I wouldn’t surprise if a DeLorean from “Back to the Future” movie will be invented one day as well.

With each invention, you need to adapt your design solution to a physical product your users will interact with.

That’s why staying up-to-date with the latest news, technology progress and your circle is important.

Time

It’s obvious that time affects design solutions. But there are specific moments that might decide what colors or functionality to include. This is a seasonal time.

During a particular season, there might be a need to update your product to a specific color. Let’s say it’s Saint Valentine’s day. This a celebration for all lovers, so there is a need to add a more red color. The same applies to Christmas and other holidays.

“Every sector works to different seasons, so take time to learn the underlying calendar driving your target sectors, and ensure you are across when they may be receptive to your approach.”

— Erica Wolfe-Murray in Forbes

While some marketers actively use this trick for their campaigns, designers also need to propose similar solutions.

Holidays are a perfect time to use your creativity. Illustrations can be widely used to highlight holiday characters or people.

It’s also a perfect time for individuality. You can create a unique app or web layout or give your users the opportunity to add playful elements.

I have created such a solution lately. It was a landing page that needed to be updated from Christmas time to summer. It was a time when I added so many illustrations.

The updated version included shells, boats, swimmers, and many more characters to reflect the season.

In most of my usual projects, it’s not possible, but when the season comes — it’s time for big changes. These changes affect the interaction between the product and a user and provide more engagement.

Behavior

When your concept is almost ready, and you test it, you see different user behavior. If your scenario included A-B-C steps, some users could achieve the final result with A-C-B steps. Some users even can be stuck and don’t get till the end.

If you get this type of situation while testing your product, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad designer. It means your users think and behave differently.

“As a FICO Consumer Digital Banking study reported, 72% of consumers said they would be happy for their banks to use web behavioral data such as typing speed to secure their banking experience.”

— Deepak Dutt in Forbes

Testing is a stage when you need to confirm your concept idea and verify your user’s behavior. If something goes wrong, it means two things:

a. You created something your users don’t want to use

b. Your users like your idea but want a different interaction.

So before going to panic, ask yourself, what is your situation. If you’re sure that concept idea doesn’t bring value to your users, it’s time for another attempt.

If you see a partial success, but testers prefer different flow and functionality and leave comments, you need to improve something only.

As you can see, your user’s interaction affects your product’s one. When you create and test your product, interaction comes to a new level, and you need to learn your user’s feedback.

Final Thoughts

Interaction design is a part of your work. While your major task involves IA, research, and other aspects, you need to know interaction design, at least basics.

Today, a UX/UI hybrid specialist is not a new term, but your projects become stronger if you can add dimensions from interaction design and combine it in your work.

You’ll assure your clients or company of your design concept by showing actual interaction during testing, so your ideas will be confirmed by the target audience.

Five dimensions of interaction design are powerful tools you can use to improve your design concepts today already.


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Olha Bahaieva Avatar

Olha Bahaieva / UI/UX Designer, Medium Author, Public Speaker @ Toptal

Olha Bahaieva is a senior UI/UX designer, Medium author and public speaker at Toptal.

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