UX and the importance of Interaction Design
At certain points in your life you might find yourself asking those big, important questions like ‘What is a McDonald’s quarter-pounder without the gherkins?’; ‘What is Kanye West without 808?’; and perhaps even, ‘What is Facebook without the “Like” button?’.
Believe it or not, the above questions have something in common - they all relate to an element of an experience which contributes to how you feel about them. This brings us to the biggest question of them all, and the reason for this article: ‘What is User Experience without Interaction Design?’.
What's the difference?
User Experience (UX) Design and Interaction Design (also known as IxD) are terms that are frequently used interchangeably; and whilst Designers of all shapes and sizes might not worry about semantics, there is a noticeable difference.
Let’s tuck in. First and foremost, UX Design is the process by which you shape the overall experience of a product and/or service from a user-centred perspective. Answering questions like, ‘What do users want to see when they land on your site?’, ‘How does your site differ from competitors?’, or ‘What action do you want users to take?’. UX Design is therefore, on the whole, very much responsible for the overall outcome of users’ experience on your site.
So where does that leave Interaction Design? Well, it’s the gherkins; it’s the 808; and is almost certainly that little ‘Like’ button. Interaction Design, in terms of digital products, refers to how the elements of a User Interface behave when you interact with them. It is the thing in particular that makes you feel a certain way about something. It becomes clearer, then, how UX and Interaction Design are connected and easily confused; however, it is also evident how in order to succeed you can’t have one without the other. UX, even a light touch, is necessary when it comes to designing interactions that benefit both your users and your brand.
To answer our initial question, Interaction Design is a relatively small, but disproportionately crucial aspect of UX Design. Next up we’re going to explore the power of Interaction Design and how you can leverage it to create digital experiences which elevate your brand above the rest.
Elevate your brand with Interaction Design
UX and Interaction Design ultimately combine to contribute to the portrayal of an organisation’s brand identity. Indeed, whilst there are the usual suspects - call-to-action buttons, card hover-states, navigation drop downs, for example - which UX design will insist on to provide a good user experience; Interaction Design can make your online presence truly unique.
Indeed, whilst UX helps you identify where and when you might emphasise your brand, Interaction Design is concerned with the how - communicating your brand through the tangible interface of your digital storefront.
When it comes to ‘why’ you should leverage Interaction Design to elevate your brand, we’ve broken it down into three buckets:
The handle of a mug, the switch on a plug socket, or the knob on a guitar amp all indicate to users what they can do and how to use each object. Ergonomic design is suggestive of an object’s affordances and thus impacts usability - websites are no different.
From a UX perspective, then, Interaction Design is essential to the usability of your website. Similar to the handle on your favourite mug, hover-states, animations and visual design can be utilised to highlight particular affordances, guide users through your site and ultimately help users achieve their goals.
Whether improving the navigation by allowing for user freedom and speed or factoring in accessibility, the key here is an appreciation of key usability principles which help provide the rationale for effective Interaction Design.
Take a look at Cowboy - the up-and-coming e-bike brand’s website. The UI is kept simple, reflecting the sleek and minimal design of their bikes and making it clear which elements of the site are clickable. You might also have noticed the use of arrows across the site, pointing towards the direction you’ll take if you interact with the CTA - downward arrows anchor you further down the page whilst those pointing across indicate you are about to visit a new area of the site. These subtle visual elements take usability to the next level.
Building on usability, these interactions offer a unique opportunity to bring your brand to life. From your brand values to brand guidelines, there are creative ways to communicate what you stand for to your customers through your site’s interactions. It’s even been proven that there is a correlation between your interaction design decisions, your customers’ emotions and brand perception.
Whether you are a corporate business which values transparency, a playful creative agency, or a charity that champions accessibility, interactive flourishes which reflect your brand provide a chance to differentiate you from your competitors in a crowded digital landscape.
The Hiring Chain, a microsite encouraging employers to hire individuals with Down syndrome, is a stellar example where personality meets Interaction Design. Interactive elements bring the campaign’s hook, a ‘chain’, to life with draggable carousel components and call-to-action hover states.
If we have to boil it down, design is all about desirability. When I say ‘Desirability’ I mean the likelihood that customers’ hit a specific button, complete a particular action or feel a certain way about their experience on your site as a result of design decisions.
If I were to nab a Steve Jobs quote, like most design articles, I’d go for this one: “The products suck! There’s no sex in them anymore.” To this end, we can see interaction design as a vital contributor to the desirability of a product which is ultimately reflected in your bottom line.
When it comes to sexiness, Norm know what they’re doing. Their one page site focuses on ‘The desk that works with you’ and the transitions are no different, rotating the desk and switching between vertical and horizontal scrolling. You’re given the full tour as the desk itself becomes the experience; and it leaves you wanting more.
Whether through usability, personality or desirability, it is crucial to leverage interaction design to leave an impression on your users. After all, what is Kanye without 808? We might not know because we might not have heard of him… You could say the same goes for your website and Interaction Design.