Interaction Design: What is it?

We all know that UX is a giant umbrella with a variety of components housed under it. Some of these components include User Research, User Experience Design, and Interaction Design. In this article, I’ll focus on Interaction Design, its purpose, its dimensions, and briefly describe what an interaction designer might do.

What is interaction design?

In simple terms, interaction design is the design of the interaction between users and products, services, or systems. UX Design is about shaping the experience of using a product, and a significant portion of that experience involves some direct interaction between the user and the product. The goal of this UX facet is to create products that enable a user to achieve their objectives in the best way possible, whether it’s through the smallest number of clicks or taps, ease of navigation, or error tolerance.

The elements of interaction design

The dimensions of interaction design I will discuss are useful models to understand what interaction design involves.

1. Words

Words used in interaction design should be simple to understand, but at the same time, convey much meaning. For example, button labels need to be clear enough to guide the user to their next objective, without being overwhelming. The rule of thumb is to be concise and not have much, if any, fluff.

2. Visuals

We consider visuals in any digital space to be anything that is not a word, easy enough right? Not so fast. As we all know, images are the first way to engage a user. If you fail to grab a user’s attention using a visual, there’s a solid chance that the user won’t spend their time reading your precious words. In the end, visual representations are as valuable to a product as words, and should be carefully crafted in your interactions.

3. Physical Objects & Space

Considering the channels of interaction with a product is as important as the interactions themselves. Is the user on a tablet? A phone? A laptop? When designing interactions, the object they are using will have an impact on the type of interactions that are possible. With a phone or tablet, taps may be the dominant interaction. On the other hand, clicks with a mouse may be the sole interaction on a laptop/desktop. You must make these considerations to ensure both effective interaction design and responsive design.

4. Time

The time in which users spend interacting with and makes use of the first three dimensions relating to your product is important to take into consideration. The longer a user spends interacting with your product, the more likely they are to engage in other interactions such as signing up, sharing your content, or making a purchase. Additionally, the concept of progress and being able to resume their interactions at a later time without facing disruptions is vital for a great product.

5. Behavior

The last dimension of interaction design pays attention to how users perform actions on a product. How do the previous four elements work in tandem to influence a user’s interactions with a product? This dimension also learns from feedback, both emotionally and physically, to form new recommendations to enhance the user experience.

What do interaction designers do?

Based on the size of the company, there may be enough resources for separate UX designers and interaction designers. If not, designers may take on the duties of both to ensure a successful product. Here are some of the duties that interaction designers may take on in their daily work:

User Research

A large part of interaction design is learning how your users are interacting with your product. This is done through user research. It is the designers job to find out what the users’ goals are, and to translate those goals into interactions with the product.


When it comes to designing the actual product, interaction designers often create wireframes and interactive prototypes to convey the actual interactions associated with the product. This gives managers, stakeholders, and users (is usability testing) the opportunity to interact with the product as the users would.

Interaction Design Resources

Interaction Design — brief intro by Jonas Lowgren

Course: Interaction Design for Usability

Important questions to consider for interaction design