What Is Interaction Design? Plus Tips For Entering The Field
Updated 24 September 2022
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If you are interested in understanding customer interactions, you may want to work in interaction design. This field comprises many positions that help customers use products or services. Learning about this field can help you determine whether it suits your interests and goals. In this article, we answer 'What is interaction design?', review what these designers do, explore the elements of interaction design, review why the dimensions of interaction design are important and see how to become an interaction designer.
What Is Interaction Design?
If you are interested in becoming a designer, knowing the answer to "What is interaction design?" can help you make a strategic career decision. Interaction design, a subgroup of user experience (UX) design, is how a user interacts with a product, physically or digitally. The focus is to create simple and engaging interfaces for users to navigate. Some examples of interaction design can include coding, animation and web design.
What Do Interaction Designers Do?
Interaction designers use technical skills and creativity to produce digital solutions, such as apps, websites or appliances. Their tasks may vary depending on the job description. Here are the general daily tasks for an interaction designer:
Design strategy: An interaction designer researches their target audience's goals. Then, they find the interaction that may help the users accomplish their goals.
Wireframes and prototypes: Often, interaction designers create a wireframe that outlines the interactions. They may also make interactive prototypes that look like their actual product or site.
Elements Of Interaction Design
Designers separate the elements of interaction design into categories. Here are each of them explained:
Interaction design principles may vary across the field, but here are a few that are often used:
Goal-oriented design: The goal-oriented design focuses on problem-solving. This means that it focuses on meeting the needs and desires of the user.
Usability: Usability is whether users can use your site or product with ease. If the site or product feels natural to use, it means designers have achieved their goals.
Personas: A persona describes the goals and behaviours of the user. Designers can make their decisions based on the context of particular user groups.
Cognitive loads: Cognitive loads refer to lessening the amount of thinking that the user has to do, such as spell-checking or keeping track of items. This means figuring out what a computer can do and building the interaction design around that.
Positive emotional responses: An interaction designer aims to appeal to a positive emotional response from users. For example, colour schemes, fonts and animations can all result in feelings from people.
Here are the dimensions of interaction design that make up the interactions themselves:
Words: It is important for words to be simple and easy to understand. The goal is to give the information to the user without confusing or distracting them, and these words can include menu items and tags.
Visual representations: Visual representations are anything without text, including graphics, icons and images. They are supplements to the words, and designers can make them easy to read, visually pleasing and used sparingly.
Physical objects or space: Physical objects refer to the actual medium the users perform the interactions on, including a keyboard, mouse or mobile device. The physical space refers to where the user is interacting with your product, such as a company computer in an office, where the computer is the physical object, and the office is the space.
Time: Time refers to how long a user has been interacting with animations and sound within the product. Time helps the user track their progress or allows them to resume their task later.
Behaviour: Behaviour refers to the emotions a user has when interacting with the product, like if the person is happy because they completed their task. Behaviour also provides feedback to the designer, which allows them to enhance their products for the benefit of the user.
Related: How To Become A UX Designer (With Duties And Skills)
Why Are The 5 Dimensions Of Interaction Design Important?
The five dimensions of interaction design are important because they provide the context for a user to accomplish their goals. They allow designers to focus on what is most important, which is the user and their needs. For example, if a designer takes out sound from an application, they can reduce the users' cognitive load by removing a distraction.
Related: 10 Essential UX Designer Skills (And How To Improve Them)
How To Learn Interaction Design?
Here are eight steps you can take to learn more about interaction design:
1. Enroll in training
Enrolling in a certificate or an associate degree program can help you start your career in interaction design. These courses typically count as college credit and offer the basics of interaction design. You can then choose to pursue a bachelor's degree. Earning your bachelor's degree in a related field, like graphic design or advertising, can positively affect your future career.
Related: Types Of Barriers In Communication
2. Build your portfolio
Interaction designers usually have a portfolio of their work. The portfolio can display your ideas, creative pieces and design skills. This is important for displaying proof of your qualification when you are looking for a job. Other samples of work for your portfolio might include:
Related: What Does A UI/UX Designer Do? (With Salary And Skills)
3. Keep learning
You can keep learning new skills and technology that may be important in the future to help your career in this dynamic field. The design field often changes, with a lot of new professionals entering and innovations occurring. This means that you may adapt to meet the needs of your industry and clients. Always do research on agencies you are interested in working for and about new innovations and technologies.
Related: 8 Steps On How To Build An E-Commerce Website (With Tips)
4. Attend conferences and events
Interaction design conferences and workshops are a great place for designers to learn and practice their skills on real projects. There are many events worldwide for interaction design professionals each year. These events can range in size and location, but they are a good place to hear about job opportunities or new products. In addition, these types of events typically provide professionals with networking opportunities where designers can meet each other, potentially getting a job offer at the end of the conference or event.
5. Look for job opportunities
At this point, you can now go on to apply for your first job in interaction design. The best way to get experience is by completing a paid internship or entry-level position with an established company or a smaller startup. In these positions, you may learn how to develop your skills and ideas with real projects, allowing you to take on greater responsibility in future roles.
6. Find a mentor
A useful way to get started in interaction design is to find a mentor and ask them for advice on what you can do to get your career started. A mentor may be an interactive designer who has experience in the industry in which you are interested in working. They may be willing to share insights with you and teach you more about their field. They can also help you find jobs and help you develop an effective resume if needed, so it is ready when employers are hiring new designers.
Related: What Is Human-Computer Interaction? (A Complete Guide)
7. Join a professional foundation
There are also several professional foundations you can join in the interaction design field. These foundations can provide opportunities for interaction design professionals to learn more about emerging technology and new techniques. You may also learn more about interaction design trends, techniques and emerging technologies at the conferences held by these professional organisations. They often occur once a year or quarterly.
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