What is the Difference between Interaction Design and UX ?

In the vast field of Design industry, there are User Experience designers, while others are User Interface Designers, and then there are Interaction designers as well. In Fact sometimes designers do all three of them. The responsibilities of UX designers and interaction designers often overlap which makes it is easy for us to get confused and overwhelmed.

So, How do they differ?

UX and Interaction Design are the two terms that are often interchanged. There’s a lot of common area between the two fields, and both of the design disciplines strives to improve overall User Experience with a product/service. And this is because Interaction Design (IxD) is simply a subset of User Experience Design (UXD).

Not happy with this simple explanation?

I hear you.

In this article we shall briefly understand the difference between user experience and interaction design.

Lets Begin,

What is User Experience (UX) Design?

User experience (UX) design is an Empathy driven process of designing a product or service that are useful, easy to use, and delightful to interact with.

Main goal of UX Design is to ultimately enhance the satisfaction & loyalty within the user.

UX design considers all the elements to shape up a great User experience (UX) . So, from touching the physical product with your hand and feeling it; to navigating through an app; to purchasing a T-shirt on a website and being able to do the smooth checkout; User experience (UX) Design is about creating a design that makes an easy, efficient and Pleasant experience for the user.

Since decades Design has been associated with the graphic design which mostly includes How the Product Looks. However, a Great Design is not only about how it looks but also includes the experience that a user has while interacting with a product.

And UX Design is the process by which a UX designer builds that experience around the product.

From Functionality, to Graphic Designs,to the emotions, to Usability of the Product and so on, a UX Design is an integration of all these aspects.

UX Design Quadrant

UX Design is a multidisciplinary field drawing elements from cognitive science ,psychology, computer science, communication design, usability and more. Infact UX is an umbrella encompassed in four main disciplines
Experience Strategy(ExS), Interaction Design (IxD), User Research (UR) and Information Architecture (IA).

What is Interaction Design?

Interaction Design is abbreviated as IxD. Interaction Design is designing interaction between users and products. The Ultimate goal of interaction design is to create products that allow users to achieve their objectives in the most efficient way.

From computers to mobile devices to appliances to all interactive digital products to environments; Interaction Design (IxD) seeks to design meaningful relationships between user and the products (physical/digital) or services that they use.

John Kolko — the Author of Thoughts on Interaction Design, has beautifully captured the essence of Interaction Design as

“Interaction Design is the creation of a dialogue between a person and a product, system, or service. This dialogue is both physical and emotional in nature and is manifested in the interplay between form, function, and technology as experienced over time.”

What is interesting is that Interaction Design (IxD) synthesizes and imagines things as they could be while considering to satisfy the users. As we discussed in the beginning that an interactive design is conversational which means that with every input added, there is an action or feedback associated with it.

5 Dimensions of Interaction Design.

The five dimensions of interaction design helps us to understand what interaction design involves. Gillian Crampton Smith, Interaction designer and a pioneer of computer desktop publishing, first introduced the concept of four dimensions of Interaction Design language. Kevin Silver later added the fifth dimension.

lets understand what are the 5 Dimensions of Interaction Design.

  • 1D: Words.

Words communicates information to users. Information should be such that it is meaningful and simple to understand. Words encompass text, such as button labels, menu items, tags which help give users the right amount of information. Too much Information can overwhelm the user. Hence, Convey the information in such a way that users gets an organic experience while interacting with your business.

  • 2D: Visual representations.

Visual representations are graphical elements such as images, typography and icons that aid in user interaction. These Visual representations acts as supplement to the words while communicating information to users.

Consider presenting some information with an Image and words beneath it. User is more likely to understand the information if presented visually rather than only in textual form. Visual representations are, indeed as powerful as words.

  • 3D: Physical objects or space.

Physical objects are the medium through which users interact with the product or service. A simple example can be when a user interacts with Microwave while in the kitchen. Here the Physical object is Microwave and Space is the kitchen.

User’s physical environment can affect how he or she interacts with a Product/service, hence you must take these considerations in the Interaction Design.

  • 4D: Time

The 4rth Dimension might seem a little abstract. Basically, it refers to media that changes with time such as animation, videos, sounds.

Time helps users understand visual changes in a UI. It also helps users track their progress and or resume their interaction some time sometime later.

  • 5D: Behavior.

Behavior includes action as well as reaction when User interacts with the product. Moreover, the previous four dimensions influence a user’s interaction with a product.

One of the most important part of Interaction design pays is in fact considering how users perform actions during their Interactions. For instance, how users perform actions on a website, or how users can operate a Washing Machine.

Theis dimension also looks at emotional feedback from the users. The feedback is then used to form new recommendations in order to enhance the user experience.

Interaction Design VS UX | Learn with Examples

UX design is about shaping the entire experience of a user while they interact with a product. And the Interaction Design is about designing the interactions when the user use the product ‘at the moment’ so that user has a pleasant experience. In simple words ,’UX Design encompasses Interaction Design’.

Designing good interaction design would ultimately lead to a good User Experience. Interaction design is focused on ‘at the moment interactions’ when a user interacts with a product with the goal to improve the interactive experience.

However, User experience design deals with all end -to -end user facing aspects of the product ( touch, feel, interacting, customer service etc) and ‘moment of interaction’ is just a part of the journey that a user goes through when they interact with a product.

User experience & interaction design are essentially distinct roles in bigger organizations. There is however no rule that restrict you to take up both these roles. Just like UX Designers, interaction designers also need to follow UX design process.

For Example — There’s no point in conducting user research to find what user needs, if interaction designers keeps themselves to those needs are kept at arms’ length from UX research outputs.

Now Lets try to learn more about the difference between Interaction Design and user Experience Design with the help of some examples

Let’s take the simplest example here about how a user use a phone to send a message. Interaction Design (IXD) is those moment of interactions when user types in the message and send it across.

And UX is overall experience the user has while sending the message which includes weather the phone was comfortable to hold or not? was it ergonomically designed? How was the touchscreen? Did all the buttons on screen did its intended function? etc

Lets take another example where you are going through a website for online shopping. After spending couple of minutes you finally decide to add a T-shirt to the cart and look for ‘Add to Cart’ button that’s close by. It is the job of the interaction designer to make sure you’d find that quickly and that you reach quickly and effortlessly from point A to point B.

Now, let’s say that when you click on the ‘Add to Cart’ button and the website has either failed to add the item, or landed you up to another page , or asking you lot of questions before the item is added . Won’t it Frustrate you? This is Bad UX Design .

Ok!

I have another example as well to help you get thorough understanding about the difference between UX Design and Interaction Design. Consider you got a task to build an Indian restaurant in Bay Area.

Here it is the job of the UX Designer to find out which neighborhood to consider , the access public transport should be easy, they would also understand the demographics of the surrounding areas, the ease of availability of parking space, and so on.

Once all the data has been captured the Interaction Designer will take all of that data to build an informed blueprint for the building. For example, How the interior would be? How would be the placement of chairs? Where the menu bar be placed? Basically, the interaction designer has to decide the best course of action with restaurant.

How Interaction Design and UX Design works together?

UX design and interaction design are connected. Infact, but you cant create a Great User Experience (UX) Design insolation of Interaction Design and Vice versa .

Remember, in the beginning we spoke about UX as an umbrella encompassed in four main disciplines. So now i hope it is clear to you that Interaction Design (IxD) is a subset of UX Design.

Moreover, Both UX design and interaction design are part of the design process that typically consists of these stages:

  • Understand: Understand the objectives of your stakeholders and Business.
  • UX Research: Learn about the User by conducting Empathetic research and studying competitor as well.
  • Build Ideas : Brainstorm with the Team to form solutions.
  • Design: Create prototypes (Lo/Hi Fi ) that can be used to test how people might interact with your product.
  • Conduct Test: Test your product with users.
  • Iterate: Repeat the process.

Basically, the steps followed by UX designers and Interaction Designers are same. The difference lies in the fact that UX Designers need to dive into the design process as early as possible. The information, which includes user personas, product requirements, and interview summaries, is then passed onto interaction designers to build those ‘moments of Interactions’

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.

Well, you can see that all those stages are constantly overlapping with each other. No wonder some job descriptions for UX designers requires them to “building interactive products”as a part of the Responsibilities.

Some last thoughts

The fact that IxD is a subset of UX design doesn’t mean that they are the same process and that they can be interchanged. Moreover, not every UX designer is a good interaction designer — and vice versa.

As Businesses are getting competitive with better products, People are looking for products which can deliver satisfactory experiences. For that reason both UX and interaction designers must work together in a Team to create products that are high on usability and delivers Pleasant User Experience.

Thankyou for reading!

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