Matching the behaviors of human and machine
With the increasing complexity and sophistication of large-scale websites and applications, the lines between information architecture (IA) and interaction design (IxD) have been blurred significantly. In the software and mobile app space, these two go hand in hand. At MxD, we don’t do one without the other, but we still feel it’s good to talk about the one without the other.
So what is IxD and how is it different? Here’s what we think is a pretty perfect definition from the Interaction Design Institute: “Interaction design defines the structure and behaviors of interactive products and services, and user interactions with those products and services.” Very simply put, IA is about structure while IxD is about behavior.
Interaction design focuses on:
- Communication between human and machine – IxD translates the conversation that occurs between the user and the technology. Good interaction design translates this exchange and fully understands the colloquialisms and nuances of both human and machine so that communication between the two is seamless.
- Action/Reaction – This is at the very core of the IxD field. The action/reaction relationship requires the understanding and the ability to anticipate how interactions unfold over time and then design to all those variations.
- State – Interaction design makes sure that the end-user understands the current state of the interactive system. By communicating the state, users will understand what type of operations are possible or appropriate at any given time, similarly to body language and gestures.
- Workflow – Beyond ensuring the user completes discrete tasks, such as logging into an account, IxD also takes into account the completion of multi-task goals such as the account view, browsing and purchasing an item.
- Failure – There is no such thing as seamless communication — inevitably something or somebody will be misunderstood. A big part of IxD is to anticipate and mitigate those potential misunderstandings by making sure both human and system get back on the same page as quickly as possible.
At MxD, all elements of IxD are considered throughout the Experience Design process and then fully realized during visual design.