In last week’s post, we discussed predictability, David Hogue’s fourth core principle of interaction design. In this final installment of our five-part series, I’d like to share another critical — and often overlooked — component of great interaction design and positive user experience: feedback.
Just like form matters in industrial design, feedback is absolutely essential to interaction design. And Hogue is talking about much more than simply supporting individual moments, actions and interactions. Feedback, he says, serves a larger purpose in any system as a whole, in that it tells people how they can — and should — interact with what’s on the screen.
Principle 5: Good Interaction Design Provides Feedback.
Feedback communicates the results of any interaction, making it both visible and understandable. Its job is to give the user a signal that they (or the product) have succeeded or failed at performing a task.
On desktops or laptops, when you hover over navigation items, you expect them to change color or load a submenu. That’s feedback, telling you that the item is clickable. progress bars and animations are also common feedback mechanisms, used to inform people that the system is doing something. And the simple act of using the correct visual form for controls (e.g. buttons that look like buttons, underlined text hyperlinks) provides immediate visual feedback.
Essentially, according to Hogue, feedback answers questions across four categories:
- Location: Where am I?
- Current Status: What’s happening — and is it still happening?
- Future Status: What will happen next?
- Outcomes & Results: What just happened?
Feedback tells us whether or not we’re moving closer to accomplishing a task or achieving a goal. It tells us if errors have occurred, and if so, what to do about them. Feedback can be attention-grabbing via modal alerts or dialogs that cover the screen, or it may be as subtle as an icon badge that communicates status. Feedback encourages and guides users through steps in a process, whole warning them when they veer off course.
Above all else, feedback is important because it provides answers to the questions the human brain is designed to instinctively ask:
- How do I get started?
- Should I click that?
- Is that work saved?
- Am I almost finished?
- Why is this taking so long?
- Should I cancel this, or wait a little longer?
- Is it doing anything, or is it stuck?
Feedback provides comfort and a sense of security; it tells us we’re doing the right thing, and it helps us decide if the outcome of our actions is valuable. if we get clear signals that our investment of time and effort will be worthwhile and will meet our needs and expectations, we’ll keep going. When the results of our actions costs us, when the result isn’t worth the effort, we learn to avoid doing those things. And in cases of apps or systems designed for repeated use, that feedback increases the likelihood that we’ll return to use it again.
Feedback, Hogue says, echoes what we learned in high school Physics: for every action there should be a reaction.
The following infographic provides some interaction design principles to help you deliver meaningful feedback in your UI designs. Click here for a larger, downloadable PDF version.
Good interaction design and good UX will always require some kind of feedback: obvious, visible, understandable reactions from the UI or the device. Feedback should be prompt, meaningful and perceivable so that users know their actions were detected. The connection between the action and the result should be made obvious, so that people know what happened, why it happened and what they should do next. Feedback should always simplify and support the user’s experience, instead of complicating it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on David Hogue’s Interaction Design principles. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!
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