What Is Interaction Design and How Is It Different From UX Design?
What is interaction design? It’s the process of designing and organizing systems that people interact with in order to use your product.
On the other hand, user experience design, or UX design, is the process of creating and improving the experience users have when interacting with your products and services.
Right now you may be thinking that interaction design is UX design in disguise. After all, the terms "user experience design" and "interaction design" are often used interchangeably.
The responsibilities of UX designers and interaction designers often overlap, and both these professions strive to create a better user experience for the products they work on.
However, there is a reason these two concepts have different names.
In this article, we'll talk about the differences between UX design and interaction design, how they both fit into the design process, and how they help you make memorable and profitable physical and digital products.
What Is Interaction Design (IxD)?
Interaction design, or IxD, is the process of designing how users interact with your products. Interaction design defines the structure and behavior of interactive systems.
If UX design is concerned more with what the user experience should be for end-users, then interaction design is about how to get there. It deals more closely with user interfaces and how users specifically interact with the interface.
In order to understand and design the interaction between a user and a product, interaction designers use different cognitive models. One of the common ones is the concept of four dimensions coined by academic Gillian Crampton Smith.
The idea behind this framework is that any user interaction exists across four dimensions, which are:
- 1D: words, the communication of necessary information to a user in the form of words
- 2D: visual representations, graphics and interface elements that a user interacts with
- 3D: physical objects or space, how a user interacts with physical products or physical interfaces like mobile phone buttons or microwave controls
- 4D: time, how long does it take users to interact with the product within any of the previously defined dimensions
This concept allows interaction designers to see every product as a series of interactions between users and product interfaces. Every user interaction should be designed to ensure that the overall user experience is smooth and pleasant.
What Does an Interaction Designer Do?
The interaction designer's job is to build interactive systems according to the most effective design principles.
Just how real-world brands are trying to build meaningful relationships between them and their customers, interaction designers are trying to build meaningful relationships between the product user interface and users.
Although interaction designers rely heavily on UI design in their efforts, UI design or interface design is just a subset of a process within interaction design.
When designing interactions, designers utilise the results of user research that was conducted by UX designers. They can even test the design themselves with end-users, utilising a testing platform like Teston.
They can use prototypes and wireframes built with prototyping tools like Axure or InVision. Later they use the results of user testing to improve their prototypes.
What Is User Experience Design (UX Design)?
UX design, or user experience design, is the process of creating and adjusting user behavior and experience with your product and every service associated with it.
Simply put, user experience design is a broader term than interaction design. UX encompasses all facets of user interaction with products, including the services around the product, the company, the brand, and of course, the product itself.
User experience is a result of the efforts of all the people involved in making the product: graphic designers, human-computer interaction specialists, usability experts, and interaction designers.
Yes, interaction design is a part of user experience design. That, however, doesn't mean UX designers can easily do an interaction designer's work or vice versa.
In order to create a smooth user experience, UX designers have to see the bigger picture, and they often deal with a lot of uncertainties. Interaction designers have a narrower focus on exactly how users interact with the product’s interface.
To understand user experience design better, let's take a look at what a UX designer does.
What Does a UX Designer Do?
Ultimately, the goal of a UX designer is to ensure that the product they work on offers the best possible user experience.
The responsibility of UX designers is to provide the context for all involved in the creation of a product: developers, graphic designers, interaction designers, UI designers, and so on.
A UX designer strives to understand which end-users will be using the product, what the needs and goals of the end user are, and how the product helps users achieve them.
Here are seven traits of good user experience. UX designers will try to create a product that is:
It’s also important to remember that people interact with products through a wide range of pleasure channels, including:
- Physical: pleasures that come through stimulation of five senses
- Social: interactions with other people
- Psychological: stimulation found through thinking processes, like finding patterns or learning new information
- Ideological: pleasure related to values and beliefs, or right and wrong concepts that people identify themselves with
Those channels produce unique pleasures for users, and it’s UX designer’s goal to ensure that your product and its services are pleasurable to use across several different channels.
There are many techniques that UX designers use to determine the user's needs and motivations. UX designers can:
- interview users and create user personas
- create journey maps
- create wireframes and prototypes
- perform user research
UX designers can create wireframes and prototypes and later observe how users interact with them during user testing. This is one of the reasons why UX design is often confused with interaction design because both deal with the interaction between users and the product.
There are many user research methods that user experience designers employ to better understand users. Among the most popular is remote usability testing. With Teston, you can test your user interface, wireframes, prototypes, and even journey maps.
Use Teston's platform to recruit target users and gain deep insights into how end-users interact with your products.
Now that you understand how UX designers work and incorporate user testing into their work, take a look at interaction design to see why, given all the similarities to UX design, it's a different discipline.
How to Effectively Combine UX Design and Interaction Design
Both UX design and interaction design are part of the design process that typically consists of these stages:
- Understand: Define what your users and business stakeholders need.
- Research: Interview users and analyse their requirements.
- Sketch: Create sketches and wireframes of your product based on your end users' goals and needs.
- Design: Create interactive prototypes that can be used to test how people might interact with your product.
- Implement: Build your product.
- Evaluate: Test your product with users.
- Iterate: Repeat the process.
UX designers dive into the design process as early as possible and provide interaction designers with all the needed context so they can create effective products based on what people need and expect.
Simply put, the more information interaction designers have about users, the better interactions they can build between the users and different elements of the user interface.
Once UX designers provide interaction designers with user personas, product requirements, and interview summaries, interaction designers can start their work.
Of course, this is largely a theoretical description of a process, and in many companies, all those stages are constantly overlapping with each other. Often interaction designers perform UX design tasks, like user testing, themselves.
On the other hand, UX designers can build interactive prototypes that they will later improve. No wonder some job descriptions for UX designers often list "building interactive products" and "designing complex user interactions" as part of their responsibilities.
What Is Interaction Design? A Way to Make Effective Products
Every company has a unique design process and designers should not be restricted in how they achieve their main goal: a great user experience.
At the same time, it’s crucial to understand how your business processes align with your UX goals and ensure that the two are aligned.
What matters is ensuring constant communication and collaboration between these two fields, and, of course, users themselves.
User testing allows you to gather user feedback at any stage of your design process.
If you want to test your products with real people and see how you can improve it, try the Teston platform. With Teston, you can easily recruit testers from your target audience and observe how they interact with your products, landing pages, and even concepts. Time to start user testing!