Interaction design is somewhat of a buzz term right now. But what is it and what does it involve?
Interaction design involves designing products with a specific focus on the way in which the target customer will interact with them. The main objective of the design process is to develop products that help customers to achieve their objectives in the easiest possible way.
Granted, that’s hardly a new concept. For many years product designers have been placing a specific focus on customer behaviors and tailoring products to consumer needs.
So, what’s so different about interaction design?
Interaction design goes one step further by studying how users interact with a given product and then refining the user experience to better meet their needs. To this end, interaction design subsequently shapes consumers’ user experiences.
Most people recognize the importance of creating a great user experience that consumers shout about from the rooftops. But how can you go about ensuring that the way in which customers interact with your application is something worth talking about?
Here are our top 15 tips for creating a user experience that resonates with your audience.
Interaction Design: 15 Things Every Designer Needs to Take into Consideration
1) Offer high perceived affordance
According to cognitive scientist Donald Norman, the properties of objects determine how they are ultimately used. Products that have a high affordance look and feel exactly as they work. As such, if you’re designing a user interface and need the users to interact with buttons and scrolling bars in a certain way, you need to ensure the appearance of those elements resembles the actions you want the user to take.
2) Remove any unnecessary obstacles
When designing a user interface, your fundamental goal should be to make the user experience as straightforward as possible. Anything that has the remote possibility of frustrating a user should be revised at the earliest opportunity. You should also ensure that the user is continually assured that the actions they have taken have been successful. The best way of achieving this is through making sure every action is accompanied by a response. For example, if you include an embedded video on your page, ensure the play button is immediately replaced by a pause button when it is clicked to assure the user that the click has triggered a reaction. Likewise, if users click on a form to complete details, a blinking cursor should appear so that they know they can commence typing.
3) Ensure it is user centric
The best apps and user interfaces are those that place the user at the heart of all functionality. To produce effective designs, you need to observe the issues that users encounter when they interact with your products, and subsequently design interactive elements that are designed to address these challenges.
If your interface is used by people from all over the world, you would ideally like to offer it in multiple languages. However, that may not always be possible and cost could be prohibitive. Instead, you could use the universal symbols that are in common use throughout the world. For example, a + symbol to denote add or a shopping basket icon to denote purchase.
4) Make sure the user experience is predictable
Users don’t like uncertainty. They are not looking to venture into the unknown. They require solid visual clues that make it clear where they are headed to next. The effective interactive design works away in the background to keeps users informed about what’s going to happen when they perform a certain action.
5) Keep cognitive load at a minimum
Human beings are creatures of habit. Once we have learned how to do something, we can repeat that behavior without experiencing any feelings of uncertainty or stress. To tap into this, design needs to be intuitive and to build on actions that customers already know how to perform. Interacting with your application or interface should be straightforward and easy. If a user needs to learn a new way of doing something to be able to make the most of the features, you may wish to rethink your design.
One way of reducing cognitive load is to limit the actions that users need to take and the amount of information that is displayed to them. Removing the need to process information makes the process much easier to follow.
6) Take micro-interactions into consideration
While the headline features are undoubtedly what attracts users to the product. When they start using it, it is the micro-interactions that make all the difference.
The devil is in the detail after all.
Macro-functions may serve a functional purpose or they may be designed to serve a higher purpose. If they are designed in a smart and intuitive manner, they can elevate the user experiences. Probably the most famous example of a macro-function is that of Facebook’s like feature. What started off as a mini interaction that was designed to increase interaction, has now become a recognized element of the Facebook brand.
7) Consider readability
It may sound obvious, but applications and user interfaces need to be readable. It is important that you use a clear and visible typeface that draws the user’s eye. Numerous research studies have found that color contrasts can be very effective; for example, white text on a green background.
Many web developers use different color combinations on call to action (CTA) buttons. In addition to enhancing readability, these color combinations also provide signals as to what the action will result in.
8) Offer instantaneous reactions
Users need to feel in control of the overall experience. The best way of helping them to achieve this sense of power is to offer them immediate feedback and responses. According to the author of a fantastic article entitled The Power of 10s, it is important that the user receives a reaction from your interface within 10 seconds of performing an action. Anything more and they will feel like they are not in control.
By ensuring the interface reacts rapidly to user actions, you give them the confidence that they are actions worth taking.
9) Create compelling copy
Interaction design isn’t just about actions and interactions; it is also about how you communicate with your customer. Words are just as important as smart layouts, intuitive gestures, and well thought-out interactions. Sometimes, single words can perfectly communicate everything the user needs to know. However, they need to be the right words.
Mental Stack’s expert team of high-quality designers and user interaction specialists know how to take the user experience to a whole new level. If you’re looking to create an app but are keen to ensure your investment pays off, get in touch now.
10) Take established behaviors into consideration
People have been interacting with apps and web pages for years now. They have certain expectations about how things should perform and what actions should lead to what outcomes. Don’t be tempted to break these mental models. Some innovation is great, but don’t try and disrupt established norms. For example, when shopping via an app, the user expects to see the shopping basket item in the top right corner of the screen. Make sure that’s exactly where it is in your app.
11) Map out your interactions on paper
An idea is nothing more than a flight of fancy until you start to plan it out and start to recognize what’s possible and what isn’t.
This is also true of interaction design. To really get your head around your planned interactions, make sure you fully map them out in paper or on an ideas board. Doing so will help you to identify how different interactions are connected and influence one another.
Think through every step that the user will need to take to perform a given action and consider the natural flow of events. You will need to replicate this flow in your interface.
12) Create a prototype
Great, so you have got to the point where everything is working on paper. You now need to test it in the form of a prototype. Prototyping allows you to physically observe how users interact with your systems while also testing that everything is working as you envisaged it would.
Prototyping can also allow you to identify any major issues before they have a detrimental impact on the end user’s experience.
13) Make sure interactions are indicative of actions
Interactions should be easy to spot and invite appropriate action. For example, if clicking on a given button will perform the action of scrolling to the top, the use of an upward arrow will give the user a hint as to what will happen when they click on that button.
To keep interactions visible, you should design them in such a way that users can immediately get a sense of what will happen when they perform a given action. For example, you can indicate a drag and drop movement with a ghosting effect.
14) Keep the platform in mind
The requirements of users are not the same across all platforms. Some users prefer the intuitive navigation scheme of the iPhone, while others look for the customization that is on offer through Android.
When you’re designing an app user interface, make sure you match the interactions with the unique needs of each user so that you will meet expectations and make the most of what’s on offer.
15) Shoot for visual clarity
Through the use of interactive images and icons, you can communicate intent and outcomes much better than you can through words alone. For instance, displaying a check mark to confirm to the user that a certain action has been taken is a quick and easy way of providing the user with clarity without confusing issues.
Looking to create an unforgettable user experience?
Mentalstack has a successful track record of developing a user experience that attracts the attention apps need to be a success in this competitive market. Whether it’s a clean and seamless interface or smart and intuitive icons, we know exactly what users and looking for.
Get in touch with us now.
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Interaction, UI, UX