Interaction Design Process

Your constantly-updated definition of Interaction Design Process and collection of videos and articles

What is Interaction Design Process?

The interaction design (IxD) process is what designers use to create solutions centered on users’ needs, aims and behavior when interacting with products. The IxD process involves 5 stages: discovering what users need/want, analyzing that, designing a potential solution, prototyping it and implementing and deploying it.

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See how to apply the interaction design process to gear your solutions to the right aspects of your users’ world.

The 5 Stages of the Interaction Design Process

The designer does not begin with some preconceived idea. Rather, the idea is the result of careful study and observation, and the design a product of that idea.

-Paul Rand, famous graphic designer and art director

With the IxD process, you can build highly intuitive, recognizable interfaces that provide seamless experiences for users and prove your brand thoroughly understands them, their contexts and the goals they seek to achieve.

Here are the five stages that the IxD process typically involves:

  1. Find the users’ needs/wants—It’s easy to assume you know what users want/need and their relevant contexts. Discover their real requirements:

    1. Observe people.

    2. Interview people.

    3. Examine existing solutions—while remembering it’s hard to envisage future needs, technologies, etc.

  2. Do analysis to sort and order your findings so they make sense. This may be through a:

    1. Narrative/story of how someone uses a system.

    2. Task analysis, breaking down a user’s steps/sub-steps.

  3. Design a potential solution according to design guidelines and fundamental design principles (e.g., giving appropriate feedback for users’ actions). Use the best techniques to match how users will interact with it in terms of, for example, navigation.

  4. Start prototyping—Give users an idea of what the product will look like and let them test it, and/or give it to experts to evaluate its effectiveness using heuristics.

  5. Implement and deploy what you have built.

The IxD process is iterative—nobody designs anything right the first time, especially regarding more innovative solutions. It may indeed take many iterations before you pinpoint the ideal version of a solution. So, you (and your design team) should continue testing and adapting appropriate changes around an ever-clearer understanding of your users’ needs. For example, you could gather user feedback and monitor support chats to find areas for improvement.

It's important to understand the interaction design process is a general idea of how you can start from your users’ needs and progress towards a fitting solution. Similar design processes exist. Design thinking is one of the more notable of these, where you work to gain and leverage vital insights to fine-tune optimal features. Only when you know your users and empathize with them can you appreciate their real-world needs, desires and pain points.

Applying the IxD Process in Real-World Contexts

Ideally, you’ll be able to work through all 5 stages of the IxD process. However, you’ll tend to find that time and financial constraints get in the way. So, you will most likely need to make trade-offs. This doesn’t mean you should cut corners on vital areas such as user research and testing. Instead, examine where you can achieve the most progress by using the most cost-effective techniques to keep your design on course—for example, you can use paper prototyping early on to get a more concrete idea of what might work best. Likewise, you should aim for a minimum viable solution (e.g., a serviceable, marketable beta version of an app) rather than wait to release a “perfect” product. Problems are harder to identify than solve, so you should approach assumptions and feedback carefully. You and your team can use heuristic evaluation to help you identify the most obvious usability errors, and focus on fixing them first. Remember that for users to enjoy a seamless experience, they should never have to stop to think about your design. They certainly should never feel frustrated with it. So, you should consider:

  1. The moment of use—Ask questions such as “Does this notification have too much text?”.

  2. How your interactive elements combine as a whole in regard to the design’s overall user experience and usability based on your users’ contexts—For example, to design a running-watch app, you should create an interface that not only motivates users but also keeps them safe as they won’t have to read overly detailed text or tap through complicated sequences while running.

The IxD process can help you systematically uncover your users’ needs so you can address these in your design. From there, you can spot obstacles to fulfilling those needs. An example of an obstacle can be something as small as a superfluous word in a message. Or it can be a major issue that shows your brand has overlooked certain users’ contexts, such as signal strength or one-handed use issues for underground/subway users. When you apply the IxD process well so you can work with such valuable insights about your users, you can help show your brand understands what these (potential) customers want—whoever and wherever they are. Naturally, a well-designed solution helps not only users, but businesses too.

Learn More about the Interaction Design Process

For more about the interaction design process, take our course.

This eye-opening, step-by-step blog shows how the interaction design process applies to the digital marketing world.

See how the interaction design process fits in with agile development.

Literature on Interaction Design Process

Here’s the entire UX literature on Interaction Design Process by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Interaction Design Process

Take a deep dive into Interaction Design Process with our course User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide .

If you’ve heard the term user experience design and been overwhelmed by all the jargon, then you’re not alone. In fact, most practicing UX designers struggle to explain what they do!

“[User experience] is used by people to say, ‘I’m a user experience designer, I design websites,’ or ‘I design apps.’ […] and they think the experience is that simple device, the website, or the app, or who knows what. No! It’s everything — it’s the way you experience the world, it’s the way you experience your life, it’s the way you experience the service. Or, yeah, an app or a computer system. But it’s a system that’s everything.”

— Don Norman, pioneer and inventor of the term “user experience,” in an interview with NNGroup

As indicated by Don Norman, User Experience is an umbrella term that covers several areas. When you work with user experience, it’s crucial to understand what those areas are so that you know how best to apply the tools available to you.

In this course, you will gain an introduction to the breadth of UX design and understand why it matters. You’ll also learn the roles and responsibilities of a UX designer, how to confidently talk about UX and practical methods that you can apply to your work immediately.

You will learn to identify the overlaps and differences between different fields and adapt your existing skills to UX design. Once you understand the lay of the land, you’ll be able to chart your journey into a career in UX design. You’ll hear from practicing UX designers from within the IxDF community — people who come from diverse backgrounds, have taught themselves design, learned on the job, and are enjoying successful careers.

If you are new to the Interaction Design Foundation, this course is a great place to start because it brings together materials from many of our other courses. This provides you with both an excellent introduction to user experience and a preview of the courses we have to offer to help you develop your future career. After each lesson, we will introduce you to the courses you can take if a specific topic has caught your attention. That way, you’ll find it easy to continue your learning journey.

In the first lesson, you’ll learn what user experience design is and what a UX designer does. You’ll also learn about the importance of portfolios and what hiring managers look for in them.

In the second lesson, you’ll learn how to think like a UX designer. This lesson also introduces you to the very first exercise for you to dip your toes into the cool waters of user experience. 

In the third and the fourth lessons, you’ll learn about the most common UX design tools and methods. You’ll also practice each of the methods through tailor-made exercises that walk you through the different stages of the design process.

In the final lesson, you’ll step outside the classroom and into the real world. You’ll understand the role of a UX designer within an organization and what it takes to overcome common challenges at the workplace. You’ll also learn how to leverage your existing skills to successfully transition to and thrive in a new career in UX.   

You’ll be taught by some of the world’s leading experts. The experts we’ve handpicked for you are:

  • Alan Dix, Director of the Computational Foundry at Swansea University, author of Statistics for HCI: Making Sense of Quantitative Data

  • Ann Blandford, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at University College London

  • Frank Spillers, Service Designer, Founder and CEO of Experience Dynamics

  • Laura Klein, Product Management Expert, Principal at Users Know, Author of Build Better Products and UX for Lean Startups

  • Michal Malewicz, Designer and Creative Director / CEO of Hype4 Mobile

  • Mike Rohde, Experience and Interface Designer, Author of The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking

  • Szymon Adamiak, Software Engineer and Co-founder of Hype4 Mobile

  • William Hudson, User Experience Strategist and Founder of Syntagm

Throughout the course, we’ll supply you with lots of templates and step-by-step guides so you can start applying what you learn in your everyday practice.

You’ll find a series of exercises that will help you get hands-on experience with the methods you learn. Whether you’re a newcomer to design considering a career switch, an experienced practitioner looking to brush up on the basics, or work closely with designers and are curious to know what your colleagues are up to, you will benefit from the learning materials and practical exercises in this course.

You can also learn with your fellow course-takers and use the discussion forums to get feedback and inspire other people who are learning alongside you. You and your fellow course-takers have a huge knowledge and experience base between you, so we think you should take advantage of it whenever possible.

You earn a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you’ve completed the course. You can highlight it on your resume, LinkedIn profile or website.

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