10 Basic Principles of Interaction Design You Need to Know.

The definition for Interaction Design is, “it is the behaviour and structure of the interactive systems”. In other words, it is the relationship between the user and the product, and the service they use.

The interaction design should create great user experience. It requires experience and understanding of basic principles of the interaction design in most of the UI disciplines. It’s about designing for the entire interconnected system: the device, the interface, the context, the environment, and the people. Interaction designers strive to create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services that they use, from computers, to mobile devices, to appliances, and beyond.

Interaction Design principles are important to keep in mind as we develop complex applications. There are some key elements of an interaction design that cannot be neglected while creating an interface for the user.

Ten basic principles of interaction design that are needed to be considered are given below:

1. Match User Experience and Expectations
By matching the sequence of steps, layout of information and terminology used with the expectations and prior experiences of the user, the friction and discomfort of learning a new system will be reduced.

Matching your audience’s prior experiences and expectations is achieved by using common conventions or UI patterns, for example EquityRobo.

2. Consistency
As well as matching people’s expectations through terminology, layout and interactions the way in which they are used should be consistent throughout the process and between related applications.

By maintaining consistency users learn more quickly, this can be achieved by re-applying in one part of the application their prior experiences from another.

An added bonus of keeping elements consistent is that you can then use inconsistency to indicate to users where things do not work the way they might expect. Breaking consistency is similar to knowing when to be unconventional as mentioned above.

3. Functional Minimalism
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Albert Einstein

The range of possible actions should be no more than is absolutely necessary. Providing too many options can detract from the primary functions and reduce usability by overwhelming the user with choices. To achieve the zen of ‘functional minimalism’:

  • Avoid unnecessary features and functions
  • Break complex tasks into manageable sub-tasks
  • Limit functions rather than the user experience.interaction_design

4. Cognitive Loads
Cognition is the scientific term for the “process of thought”. When designing interactions we need to minimise the amount of “thinking work” required to complete a particular task. Another way of putting it is that a good assistant uses their skills to help the master focus on their skills.

For instance, while designing, we need to understand how much concentration the task requires to complete it and create a user interface that reduces cognitive load as much as possible. A good way to reduce the amount of ‘thinking work’ the user has to do is to focus on what the computer is good at and build a system that uses the computers skills to the best of its abilities. Remember that computer are good at:

  • Maths
  • Remembering things
  • Keeping track of things
  • Comparing things
  • Spell Checking and spotting/correcting errors

Knowing qualities of product and users , one can create a design for better user experience.

5. Engagement
In User Experience terms engagement measures the extent to which a consumer has a meaningful experience. An engaging experience is not only more enjoyable, but also easier and more productive. As with many things engagement is subjective so the system your designing must engage with the desired audience; what appeals to a teenager is not necessarily what their grandparent would also find engaging. Beyond aligning with the appropriate users, control achievement and creation are key.

The user should feel like they are in control of the experience at all times, they must constantly feel like they’re achieving something and also be able see the results through positive feedback or alternatively feel like they’ve created something.

In his book ‘Flow’, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes a state of optimal experience, where people are so engaged in the activity they’re doing that the rest of the world falls away. Flow is what we’re looking to achieve through engaging interactions. We should allow users to concentrate on their work, not on the user interface. In short keep out of the way!

6. Control, Trust and Explorability
These three elements are fundamentally important to any system. If users feel in control of the process they will be more comfortable using the system. If the user is comfortable and in control they will trust that the system will protect them from making unrecoverable or unrecognised errors or from feeling stupid. Trust inspires confidence and with confidence the user is free to explore further.

7. Perceivability
People are aware of the opportunity to interact with interactive media. As interface designers, we must avoid developing hidden interactions, which decrease the usability, efficiency, and user experience of interactive media. In other words, people should not have to guess or look for opportunities to interact.

When developing interactive media, users should have the ability to review an interface and identify where they can interact. We must remember that not everyone experiences and interacts with interface in the same way others do. Make it a habit to provide hints and indicators. More like, visual cues such as buttons, icons, textures, textiles, etc. Allow for the user to see that these visual cues can actually be clicked or tapped with their fingers. We should always take into consideration the usability and accessibility of our interactive media and how the user sees and perceives the objects in the interface.  principles_

8. Learnability
Another very important core principle is the ability to easily learn and use an interface after using it for the first time. Remember that engaging interfaces allow users to easily learn and remember their interactions.

Learnability makes interaction simpler and intuitive. Even simple interfaces may require a certain amount of experience to learn. People tend to interact with an interface in similar ways they interact with other interfaces. For this reason, we must understand the importance of design patterns and consistency. This allows the user to avoid having to learn something new and will give him/her a sense of achievement. They will feel smart and capable of grasping and utilizing newer interfaces, allow for them to feel confident while navigating through the interface.

9. Error Prevention, Detection and Recovery.
The best way to reduce the amount of errors a user makes is to anticipate possible mistakes and prevent them from happening in the first place. If the errors are unavoidable we need to make them easy to spot and help the user to recover from them quickly and without unnecessary friction.

Error Prevention
Prevent errors by:

  • Disabling functions that aren’t relevant to the user
  • Using appropriate controls to constrain inputs (e.g. radio buttons, dropdowns)
  • Providing descriptive, clear instructions and considering preemptive help
  • As a last resort provide clear warning messages

Error Detection
Anticipate possible errors and provide feedback that helps users verify that:

  • They’ve done what they intended to do
  • What they intended to do was correct

Its important to remember that providing feedback by changing the visual state of an object or item is more noticeable than a written message.

Error Recovery
If the error is unavoidable provide clearly marked ways for the user to recover from it. For example provide “back”, “undo” or “cancel” commands.

If a specific action is irreversible it should be classed as critical and you should make the user  confirm first in order to prevent slip ups. Alternatively you can create a system that naturally defaults to a less harmful state. For example if I close a document without saving it the system should be intelligent enough to know that it is unlikely that I intended the action and therefore either auto-save or clearly warn me before closing. spectrum-of-user-interface-design

10. Affordance
Affordance is the quality of an object that allows an individual to perform an action, for example a standard household light switch has good ‘affordance’, in that it appears innately clickable. In short the physical properties of an object should suggest how it can be used. In the context of user interfaces, affordance can be achieved by:

  • Simulating ‘physical world’ affordances e.g. buttons or switches
  • or keeping consistency with modern web standards or other interface elements e.g. underlined links or default button styles.

Interaction design is not always about creating a better interface for the users, but it is also about using the technology in the way people want. It is necessary to know the target users in order to design desirable product for them. An interactive design is the basis for the success of any product. These 10 principles of interaction design are based on the study and experiences of our team in designing mobile and web apps for a broad product portfolio and on multiple mobile and web platforms.

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