Lecture Notes: Week 2 » Interactive Design

Posted on March 13, 2011


“Designing interactive products to support people in their everyday and working lives.” — Sharp, Rogers & Preece

“The Design for Human Communication and Interaction.” — Winograd

Interactive Design’s second lecture was an introduction to Interaction Design. It begins with the five ‘key design areas’ of Interaction Design, which are: Interactivity, Information Architecture, Time and Motion, Narrative and Interface. All of these elements are important to interactive design because one cannot create interactivity without an interface and this interface cannot be designed or made without information architecture.

I found Bill Verplank’s video on the role of Interaction Designers incredibly fascinating; I wonder how he talks and draw at the same time without being distracted (and they say men can’t multitask!). Verplank’s definition of Interaction Design is more focused on designing for people and how people ‘interact’ on the world. He goes on to say that interaction designers need to answer three questions:

+ How do you do?
How does the user affect the world? Will they use a handle or a button? Using a handle will give them full control while using a button will give them discreet control.

How do you feel?
How does the user receive feedback from the world? Hot or Cool media? T.V is a hot media while books are cool medias.

How do you know?
What knowledge do you expect the user to have? How will they navigate with this knowledge? Will they need a map or just a path?

Sarah Waterson notes that students (ahoy there, that’s me) will need to ‘wear many hats’ – which I take to essentially mean we won’t be just designing interaction but we’ll also be designing interfaces (graphic design) and architecting information etc.

The following chart shows us how various disciplines and practices such as Graphic Design, Information Systems and Human Factors contribute to Interaction Design. It really helped me understand that Interaction Design cannot exist on it’s own. Cognition appears many times on this chart, and it is a term used to describe how humans process information and how they perceive the world. Sarah Waterson says we, as Interactive Designers, must pay attention to this, especially when designing for the screen as people’s perception of something on screen is different to their perception of the actual object.

Interactivity is essentially being able to meet our needs and desires through our fives senses which are: touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. The following chart demonstrates the difference in reactive and engaging factors between four interactive activities.

A good conversation is both highly reactive and engaging as you are interacting and receiving feedback at the same time . In contrast, reading a book is less reactive as you are merely receiving information and not really interacting with it (sort of like Web 1.0) and even though the content may be highly engaging, it is still a passive experience.

I think the most interesting thing Gillian Crampton Smith said was that: we need to have a ‘clear mental model’ of what we’re actually interacting with. She used Hypercard as an example of this. She goes on to say that you need to know where you are in a system, what you can do next, where you can go and what can or will happen once you’ve gone there. I think these are important factors to consider when designing interaction as we are essentially trying to make people’s lives easier through our designs.

Another thing that was interesting was what she said about getting your users to ‘interact’ without having to think about it. She used QuarkExpress as an example where you can zoom in without really thinking about it – aka intuitive design.

The lecture finishes with ‘experience design’, which is all about building meaningful experiences for others. In order to do this, we must understand our audience’s needs, abilities, expectations and interests and how we can reach them.

“Interaction Design is not about information but about experience…”