Principles of Interaction Design

Principles of Interaction Design
  • Jan 2, 2024

Principles of Interaction Design

Designing for Delight: The Principles of Usability and User-Centric Design

Imagine waking up to a world where door handles are too complicated to figure out how to open or where smartphones seem to have a vendetta against your thumbs. What kind of world would it be if everything seemed so... complicated?

We are surrounded by an ensemble cast of everyday objects and systems, each with its unique performance.

Ever notice how the world around us fits into our everyday system? The doors we open, the gadgets we greet, and the chairs we cozy in are all part of one cosmic design challenge.

Now, let's get into what makes a good and bad design. A must-read recommendation is “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. It's a classic that delves into the principle of design and usability, mainly focusing on the interaction between people and the products and systems they encounter daily.

He enumerated six principles of designing interactions and why it's essential to prioritize user-centered designs.

Principles of Interaction Design

Don Norman's principles of interaction design revolve around creating user-centered and intuitive experiences. Here are his key concepts:

1 Affordance

Affordances are the perceived possibilities for action that an object provides its users. In the knowledge of interaction design, this can refer to the visual and sensory cues that indicate how a user can interact with a product.

2 Mapping

Mapping is the relationship between controls and their effects. A good design ensures that the mapping between user actions and system responses is natural and intuitive.

Example: A dial that you turn clockwise would usually correspond to an increase parameter while turning it counterclockwise corresponds to a decrease in parameter.

3 Feedback

Feedback informs users about the outcome of their actions. It lets users know their interaction was successful, and the system responds.

Immediate and clear feedback helps users understand the system's state and guides subsequent actions.

4 Constraints

Constraints limit the possible interactions in a way that guides users towards correct usage. This prevents users from making any errors or unintended actions. Well-designed constraints make it easier to use a product.

5 Consistency

Consistency ensures that similar actions or components have identical behavior across the product or system. Humans rely on consistent behavior and mental models of how things work, contributing to better usability.

6 Visibility

Visibility refers to how easily users can see and understand the available options or actions. Essential elements should be visible and not hidden, ensuring users don't have to hunt for crucial functionalities.

Here's a table to summarize all the notes above:

Principle Definition Examples
Affordance Perceived possibilities for action an object offers. A button that indicates it can be pressed.
Mapping Relationship between controls and effects. Turning a dial clockwise increases volume, and turning a dial counter clockwise can decrease volume.
Feedback System responds to user actions. Beep sound when the microwave starts.
Constraints Limitations guiding correct usage. Childproof cap on a medicine bottle.
Consistency Similar actions and components with uniform behavior. Save icon (floppy disk) signifies saving.
Visibility Easily seeing and understanding options and actions. Menu bar with clearly labeled options

When effectively applied, these principles contribute to creating user-centered and intuitive interaction designs.

How Interaction Design Principles Transform Web Design

Creating an exceptional user experience on a website can be a multidimensional challenge. While these principles by Don Norman are primarily targeted at everyday use, it's no surprise that they are also essential to consider when considering web design. After all, everyone's online nowadays.

Let's explore how these principles work their magic in the realm of web design, elevating usability, navigation, and overall user satisfaction.

1Affordance and Mapping for Intuitive Navigation

Clear buttons, links, and menus should exhibit clear affordances such as color changes or hover effects indicating they are clickable. Mapping helps users understand where they are in the website structure and how to move around.

2Feedback and Constraints for User Guidance

A feedback mechanism is critical to inform users about their actions in web design. When a user submits a form, a clear message indicating successful submission provides feedback.

Constraints help prevent errors by limiting options or providing warnings. For example, requiring specific formats for input fields like phone numbers ensures users offer accurate data.

3Consistency and Visibility for Branding and Usability

Consistency in design elements, layout, and interaction patterns creates a coherent experience across a website. When buttons consistently behave the same way, users can predict how they'll respond.

This not only aids usability but also reinforces the website's branding.

Visibility is crucial in showcasing essential information and features. A prominent call-to-action button on a homepage immediately draws attention to a desired action.

By adhering to these principles, web designers create a familiar environment that users can quickly understand and navigate, resulting in a comfortable and memorable experience.




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