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UX design to interaction design, “you can stand under my umbrella”

UX/UI Design
Professional and Technical Services
When Rihanna came up with the lyrics to Umbrella, she would have never even thought in her wildest dreams that it would be applied to something like UX (user experience) design and IxD (interaction design). Even I chuckled (and maybe giggled too) while typing this, but in all seriousness, it fits since interaction design actually falls under the purview of UX.

It is an incorrect assumption that interaction design and UX design are like chalk and cheese because, in reality, the story is very different. So, instead of waiting around, let’s fall into the rabbit hole like Alice, except the rabbit hole here is design-shaped and has much more associations to our day-to-day lives.

Introduction to interaction design

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

- Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple.

Let’s cut right to the chase (yes, no more jokes. We solemnly swear.). Instead of me rambling on about how IxD and UX design are the same same but different and you rolling your eyes at my lame attempts at humor, let me actually tell you more about them individually and how they work together.

According to the Interaction Design Foundation (yes, even I was surprised that something like this exists), interaction design is the design of interactive products and services in which a designer’s focus goes beyond the item in development to include the way users will interact with it. In normal terms, IxD aims to create evocative relationships between users and the products that they use, from mobile devices, laptops, appliances, and more.

Interaction design can be easily understood using a framework, which explains that user interaction usually occurs across five dimensions:

1D: Words

This includes text, which helps in providing the correct amount of information to users. These are generally used in button labels, should be easy to understand, and must communicate information succinctly.

2D: Visual representation

This refers to the graphical elements users interact with, such as images, icons, and typography. These visual representations usually accompany the words while communicating.

3D: Physical objects

Physical objects refer to the medium through which users communicate and interact with a service or product, for example, mobile phone using fingers or laptop using the touchpad.

4D: Time

Time comprises media that helps understand the change of time, like sounds, videos, and animations. This also assists users in tracking their progress.

5D: Behavior

Behavior talks about users’ actions and reactions with a product, for example, how users operate a laptop or what steps users follow on a website. This also includes how a particular service or product behaves to the user’s interactions.

Interaction designers use these five dimensions to develop and consider the interactions and communications between a product and user in an inclusive manner. This also helps the designers comprehend the real-world implications and demands of interaction in relation to design.

Introduction to user experience design

“No product is an island. A product is more than a product. It is a cohesive, integrated set of experiences. Think through all of the stages of a product or service – from initial intentions through final reflections, from first usage to help, service, and maintenance. Make them all work together seamlessly.”

- Don Norman, Inventor of the term user experience.

UX design is defined as a process employed by design departments and teams to develop products that offer relevant and meaningful experiences to users (we solemnly swore to no more jokes, didn’t we?). This comprises designing, right from acquiring to assimilating the product, including usability, functionality, and branding.

UX design helps answer the important age-old questions—the what, the why, and the how.

The why emphasizes and focuses on the user’s motivation for embracing a product—whether they want to use it to perform a task or the values they associate with the ownership of the product. The what, in this case, addresses the functionality of the product, i.e., what users can do with a particular product. Coming to the how, it focuses on the functionality to make it look aesthetically pleasing. This process starts with the why, before determining the what, and eventually, the how, which helps design products with which users can form meaningful attachments and experiences.

UX design focuses not only on product consumption but also on the overall process of acquiring, owning, and troubleshooting. In addition, UX design also concentrates on other elements of user experience such as fun, efficiency, and pleasure. Hence, it can be said that a good user experience meets the user’s needs in specific contexts.

How does interaction design fit under the umbrella of UX design?

Interaction design has been used interchangeably with UX design, but they are not two peas in a pod. Rather, UX design is the pod, while interaction design is the pea. UX design focuses on the big picture, while interaction design focuses on one aspect of this big picture. Let’s look at this with a comparison to understand the nuances between these design elements:

  • Interaction design focuses on how a user interacts and communicates with a product, while the objective of UX design is not solely restricted to the usability of the product.
  • IxD emphasizes how a user interacts with a product, while in UX design, the product must appeal to the user on numerous levels.
  • For the user’s interaction with a design to be seamless, IxD also involves consumer and market research, accepting reviews and feedback, and field research and study. On the other hand, behind-the-scenes development help users navigate websites and apps seamlessly.

Now, let’s apply these nuances to an example—imagine that a website is a brand-new amusement park. In this case, interaction design will pay attention to developing plans for the park, building pathways to connect rides, and plan traffic movement across the park. At the other end of the spectrum, UX design will obtain feedback from consumers and suggest recommendations to enhance and improve the overall experience of the amusement park.

Ultimately, the critical difference between UX design and IxD is the approach to user interactions. IxD focuses on improving the interactive experience when a user interacts with a product. When it comes to UX design, the interaction with a product is simply a part of the journey since UX design is responsible for all user-centric aspects of a product. Thus, we can conclude that IxD is a spoke in the umbrella of UX design, just like visual design, information architecture, usability, user research, and content strategy.

(Disclaimer: No umbrellas and peas were harmed during this write-up. And yes, I broke my solemn promise.)

Such designs are conversations and have massive potential, and we at Mutual Mobile couldn’t agree more.  At this point, we could give a spiel about our services, but you might roll your eyes at that. Instead, you could check out the amazing work that we have done for numerous clients. So, you would know who to reach out to when you require UX and interaction design services to elevate your business 😉

Overhaul Your UX With Us

Varun Mehta

Content Marketer

Between reading voraciously and writing for tech, it’s a marvel that Varun manages to find time to support Manchester United, savor single malts, and unwind to Pink Floyd!

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