Defining Interaction Design

by Luke Wroblewski April 13, 2006

As part of my presentations at the Art of Yahoo! conference in Kuala Lumpur this week, I’ll be discussing the fundamentals of Interaction Design with a focus on how Visual Designers and Interaction Designers should work together. So naturally I needed to provide a good definition of interaction design in order to frame the conversation.

The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) has a great definition:

  • Interaction design defines the structure and behaviors of interactive products and services, and user interactions with those products and services.
  • Good interaction design effectively communicates a system’s interactivity and functionality, defines behaviors that communicate a system’s responses to user interactions, reveals both simple and complex workflows, informs users about system state changes, and prevents user error.
  • Interaction design is grounded in an understanding of real users (goals, tasks, experiences, needs, and wants) and balances these needs with business goals and technological capabilities.

At the same time as I was putting this presentation together, a discussion emerged on the IxDA list about whether Interaction Design was the design of: time, experienced time, a sense of time and flow, attention, or time + space + choice. Ultimately Robert Reimann put the right wrapper on it:

“Although behavior occurs in time, it would be a mistake to reduce the design of behavior to mere manipulation of time (or more accurately, the perception and use of time). In particular, there is a "matching" of behaviors –machine to human -that must occur when designing superior interactions. It is not only time + space + choice but rather time + space + choice + response, where the human choice is reciprocated by time + space + choice + an appropriate machine response that (ideally) fits with human expectation or emotion in the context of that choice or action.”