Interaction Design Retreat: Before

by Luke Wroblewski June 17, 2005

I’ll be spending June 17-19 at the 2005 Interaction Design (IxD) Retreat in Norwalk, CT. The retreat is focused on:

  • What are the issues today for IxD and for those practicing it?
  • What type of organization would best address those issues?
  • What will it take to create such an organization?
  • What short-term and long-term strategies should such an organization have?
  • What can the ad hoc environment we currently have today do to start addressing these issues?
  • Are the current initiatives good? What can we do to better support them? Do we need to add new initiatives?

Here are some of my thoughts on these issues (pre-retreat):

Standards

At the AJAX Summit in May, the topic of standards for AJAX-enabled Web applications came up. How should interface designers account for the rapid, incremental UI updates that AJAX makes possible? Should we leverage the ideas already making their way online or pursue unique solutions independently? Which of these methods would provide answers that could ultimately become recommendations rather than conventions?

This question and others like it seem ripe for an Interaction Design group to address. Though independent authors often respond to such needs by sharing their thoughts and experiences online, published guidelines or recommendations backed by an Interaction Design group could go further. Authoritative recommendations may even help new interaction technologies avoid the “Skip Intro” backlash that hampered practical Flash adoption.

Likewise as companies like Microsoft and Macromedia continue to develop declarative programming languages for user interface development, they are likely to build more interaction code into their standard component sets. Consistency between these components would ultimately benefit end users that encounter interfaces from both companies. Should there be a universal language of interaction? Why or why not?

Education

Having taught interface design courses at the graduate and under-graduate level at a public university, I can testify that effective interaction design programs are difficult to establish in traditional academic institutions. In most universities, the multiple disciplines that contribute to good design are isolated and there are few resources that can help educators construct the kind of programs that turn eager students into successful practitioners. An Interaction Design group could develop and distribute these types of resources and help promote the value of cross-disciplinary design education.

Of course, resources developed by such a group shouldn’t be solely focused on students. Interaction designers in the field would likewise benefit from resources that addressed their most pressing needs. Of these, I most often hear about the desire to contribute to the strategic direction of a company: to lead by design. An Interaction Design group could share the skills and processes required to establish design as a key competitive advantage and product differentiator within corporations.

As these are just my initial thoughts, the route we take as a group could be quite different. Stay tuned…