Design is an extremely difficult thing to define. There are a near-infinite number of forms and schools of thought on the subject of design. Interaction Design is a form of design that deals primarily with the manner in which applications, systems and products interact with a user.
“Art can exist for art’s sake. Design cannot.”
- Matt Ward
Since the dawn of civilisation, ever since primitive man started using tools, design has been an issue. (Your club is no use if you put the spikes on the wrong end) Through the ages, the ideals of design have evolved from the basic common sense of pointing the sharp end of your stick away from you to a complex and beautiful process. These days, virtually every product or, indeed, object encountered in the first world is designed to some degree. This has progressed to the point where plants and even animals have been trimmed and bread to conform to mankind’s ideal.
With the increasing complexity of technology and the development of the internet, the design process is more essential than ever. User interfaces surround us in ever-increasing complexity. This complexity brings about a need for designers to focus harder than ever on exactly how the product will interact with the user. Enter, Interaction Design.
Interaction Design focuses on this need to ensure interfaces work as intended and are as pleasurable to use as possible. As we move further from the days of command-line systems and static web pages being common-place, this becomes even more important. As Steve Jobs himself once said,
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
- Steve Jobs
Steve jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc. is a man who, in the design world needs no introduction and probably one of the greatest product and interaction designers the world has seen. Steve was a perfectionist as well as an extremely intuitive designer and this is what lead to Apple’s products being some of the most successful in the world.
Matt Ward, as quoted at the beginning of the article believes design revolves around three major keywords; “purposeful”, “intentional” and “content” and said as much in his “What is Design” blog post. In short, this means that there should be an underlying purpose of the design rather than for the sake of simply looking good, the design should be constructed in the way that it is after careful consideration (Which font is most readable, Where does the user expect specific standard elements to be on the screen) and finally, the style of the layout should reflect and compliment the content.
This having been said, Interaction Design is still largely concerned with appealing visuals as well as functionality. In the same way that a stunning interface will not be successful if it regularly crashes or returns errors, a perfectly designed system cannot succeed without a appealing and readable interface.
“Beauty and brains, pleasure and usability — they should go hand in hand.”
- Donald Norman
Interaction Design, in my eyes, is the process of blending an interface with functionality. Working in tandem and in between engineers/back-end developers and designers/graphic designers. Interaction Design is a vital step in ensuring that the user’s desires and actions with the interface they can see are perfectly translated and understood by the mechanics or back-end coding of the product or application.