What is Interaction Design? What is the difference between user experience design (UX) and user interface design (UI)? Why is it important in product design?

If you search Google for interactive design or interactive design as some have translated it, you will find some content on the web. The reason for not addressing this important concept in design may be that it is difficult to define it and also clarify its differences with UI / UX design.

But do not worry. If you are interested in user interface design and user experience and, for example, you came across the term design or interaction design in the headings of the UI training course and you did not know its meaning, you will get to know this concept completely in this content. And you read the answers to the questions that were asked at the beginning.

What is interaction design?

Almost every product or service that humans deal with is designed. Because every product is supposed to answer one or more specific human needs. For example, consider the entrance of a store. How should that door work? It means two door hinges that open outwards or a very large revolving door. I don’t know about you, but I get stressed every time I’m faced with a revolving door and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Of course, this is a global problem.

Humans should be able to use the product, even one door, easily and correctly without any worries. If this issue is important in the design of physical products, it is very, very important in the design of digital products (i.e. websites and applications). Because the users of a website or application have specific needs and decide to use that product to do certain tasks.

So, it is necessary and necessary to design human interaction with that digital product so that people can use it easily and correctly without any worries. So, in simple words and as defined by interaction-design.org, interaction design means

The design of the interaction between users and products.

5 dimensions of interaction design

In authoritative sources, 5 dimensions or aspects are mentioned for Interaction Design, which is abbreviated as IxD:

  • Words: Human-machine interaction cannot happen without words. Words and texts, especially user experience texts, are what gives the user the necessary information to interact with the product.
  • Visual elements: It is not just words and texts that guide the user and make him understand something. Visual elements (photos, images, icons, etc.) are also important points of user interaction and communication with the product.
  • Space and device: physical devices and devices (smartphone, laptop, computer, mouse, etc.) that primarily enable human-machine interaction. In addition to the device and its features, the actual place or space (work environment, home, while exercising, walking, etc.) where the interaction takes place is also effective in the quality of the interaction.
  • Time: How much time does the user spend interacting with the product? How does time affect interaction? In addition, some elements (such as sound and animation) become relevant at a certain time of interaction with the user (for example, when the user enters a page, a pop-up with a certain sound is opened for him).
  • Action and reaction: How does the product (sum of the previous 4 dimensions) work and how does the user behave with the product? How does he react to each of those dimensions?

The difference between interaction design and UX design

When reading the definition of interaction design, the first question that comes to mind is “So what is user experience design?” In UX design, isn’t the user’s satisfactory experience and interaction with the product designed? Doesn’t the user experience designer know the user with all kinds of research to discover their needs and design the product to meet the user’s needs?

Yes, interaction design and UX are similar in many ways and that is why they are sometimes used interchangeably in some sources. But they have a very important difference: interaction design is a subset of user experience design and is placed within it. The UX designer has many tasks and must find answers to various questions in different fields; from collecting all kinds of data to understand the user, to information architecture and persuasive design.

In addition to all of these, the UX designer must know how humans interact with the product (which is a machine and works in a virtual space). What things shape and affect that interaction?

If the UX designer is not familiar with important and effective points and moments in human-product interaction, how will he be able to design a satisfactory and useful interaction and experience?

The difference between interaction design and UI design

Maybe the difference between interaction design and UI design is a little clearer. The user interface designer is responsible for designing interaction interfaces (such as buttons, icons, typography, motion designs, etc.). Those interfaces form the second dimension (visual elements) of interaction design. The user interface designer, like the UX designer, is not responsible for making sure that the user experience of interacting with all product components is satisfactory and useful at all moments of interaction.

But there is no interaction without interfaces. So, UI is part of user interaction and experience. This is why the user interface designer for each digital product develops a design system so that all interfaces are designed uniformly and fundamentally throughout the product. One of the important duties of the designer is to develop a guide (system design) for the product whose interfaces he designs.

A guide in which, taking into account product features and brand values, it is specified what color and shape all visual elements should have in different situations. With this guide, programmers and other members of the product design team also clearly know how user interfaces should be designed in all products.

In this way, the user is faced with visual integration and harmony in the product. This visual integration makes the user’s interaction with the product predictable. Therefore, the UI designer must also be familiar with interaction design.

Who is an interaction designer?

An interaction designer is someone whose main focus is on creating and shaping the action and reactions of humans and technology. For the interaction designer, it is important how digital products should be designed for human use. So, he deals with human-computer interaction and human-centered design. The goal of the interaction designer is to understand what the user can do in and with the product and what happens at each step of the interaction. For him, the feelings and perceptions of the user about technology and digital products are very important and instructive.

Now the question that arises is whether the interaction design must be done by the interaction designer or can the user experience designer do it? The answer to this question depends on how big the product design team is and how much human and financial resources it has. If the product design is going on in a big team where every task is done by an expert; it is natural that interaction design and user experience design are entrusted to two people. But in medium and small projects, it is the UX designer who also undertakes the interaction design.

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