Not everyone is familiar with the role Interaction Design plays in creating great user interfaces (UIs). not everyone realizes how crucial good Interaction Design is to good User Experience (UX). In fact, I often hear from folks who’ve never heard the term at all.

Fortunately for us, an incredibly sharp guy by the name of David Hogue defined Interaction Design quite clearly some years back, and his definition and principles remain the definitive word on the discipline. According to Hogue, Interaction Design:

  • Defines how interactive systems are structured, how content and/or data is organized and how the system should behave in response to user actions.
  • Is based on the designer or developer’s understanding of user goals, tasks, experiences, needs and wants.
  • Is also based on business goals and technological capabilities, and the “sweet spots” where these overlap with user goals, needs and wants.
  • Seeks to establish a relationship between people and products that is perceived to be useful and valuable.

When Interaction Design is done well, it:

  • Communicates to the user what functions are available, and allows them to infer how to interact with what they see,
  • Allows the user to predict what’s about to happen, be aware of what is happening now and understand what has just happened.
  • Gives the user a clear sense of workflow — how many steps there may be, how long they may take and a general sense of the required level of effort.
  • Prevent users from making too many mistakes through smart defaults and appropriate visual design of UI controls.

From a formal standpoint, Hogue introduced 50+ timeless design principles that make up what we know today as Interaction Design. But the truth of the matter, he says, is that while they’re all relevant and useful, there are 5 that you should focus on first in order to make significant improvements in the UX of your apps, sites or systems.

Timeless UI Principles

Principle 1: good Interaction Design is Consistent.

Creative types — including developers and programmers — often have the instinctive need to break with convention, to be “different.” industry giants like Apple encourage us all to “think different;’ you can’t go too far these days without hearing some variation on the theme of innovative, “outside the box” thinking. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of that, but Hogue posits that good UX and sound Interaction Design has a somewhat different mandate:

Don’t be different just to be different — be different when doing so makes something better.

The following infographic provides some tips and tricks to help you do just that. Click or tap here for a larger, downloadable PDF version.

Interaction Design Consistency Infographic

These are just some of the ways consistency can guide your UI design efforts. When elements, behaviors and styles are consistent across a website, app or system, users catch on a whole lot faster. And they’re also able to focus squarely on the task at hand or the content onscreen, instead of being distracted by shiny new objects at every click, tap or swipe.

Tune in next week for Principle #2! In the meantime, GIVE GOOD UX!

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