What Is Interaction Design? (Definition and Courses)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 17, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective design of products and services generally encourages product interaction and improves customer engagement. To achieve this, designers study the factors that influence the digital or non-digital interaction of a product with a consumer. Learning about interaction design may be helpful if you're looking to start a career in this field. In this article, we answer the question, "What is interaction design?", discuss the courses you may pursue to get a job in this field, and share steps to grow your knowledge.

What is interaction design?

Knowing the answer to "What is interaction design?" can help you understand how consumers interact with a company's products. It refers to the plan for interaction between the product or service and the user. While an interaction designer may pay attention to design, they typically focus more on how the users interact with the product.

The interaction design or IxD approach most commonly applies to digital products, specifically website and software development. A website is usually the first element of an organization the user interacts with, adding importance to this field. Here's a list of factors involved in interaction design:

  • Words: Interaction designers study their end-users to understand how they interact with information. The knowledge they gain may influence the words they use in a product's design, and they make sure that their choice enables the brand to communicate effectively with their target consumers.

  • Graphics or visual representations: This category includes all visual elements, such as icons, photographs, and images. Designers often use vivid and powerful graphics to enhance or replace words, gain the attention of end-users, and make the interaction smooth and meaningful.

  • Physical object and space: Part of the job of interaction designers is determining the physical medium chosen by end-users when interacting with the company's product or service. They may use this information to design appropriate visuals that work for mobile phones, desktop computers, tablets, or any medium the end-user prefers.

  • Time: Media changes over time in terms of audio, animations, and videos that give the end-user a pleasant experience when interacting with a product. It can also pertain to the time that the user spends interacting with the product, how they can monitor their usage, and whether they can resume where they left the interaction at a later time.

  • Behaviour: Interaction designers often study how users interact with the product and how the other four elements influence the interaction. They may consider the user's feedback on the product and how they gather information to develop recommendations and implement changes that may enhance their experience in the next interaction.

Related: 13 Best Jobs in Design (With Salaries and Job Duties)

Courses in interaction design

Interaction design generally involves interconnected disciplines that focus on consumer interaction and behaviour. It is often confused with user experience design, which may be because these two fields share many similar concepts. When studying interaction design, here are some courses to consider:

Interaction design principle

The goal of interaction design is to create a great user experience. In this course, students learn and study the principles required to develop meaningful and remarkable interactions between users and the products or services. They learn how to design for the interconnected systems of the user, device, environment, and context.

In this course, students may learn about matching user experience with expectations, creating a functional, simple, and consistent design, and designing an interactive interface that's both engaging and easy to understand. They may also learn to design systems that make the user comfortable and confident with the process. Part of this course involves lessons on developing a user-friendly product and the ability to prevent, detect, and recover from errors.

Interaction design process

This course usually teaches aspiring designers how to create customer-focused solutions. They study the needs and behaviour of the users when interacting with the product or service they designed. The interaction design process typically involves the following:

  • Determining the user's needs and wants through observation or interviews

  • Organizing data by dividing a user's steps in using a system and analyzing these design solutions

  • Creating prototypes that the users may test and experience

  • Implementing the new system

User experience

Interaction design is part of the broad field of user experience or UX. While UX covers many concerns, including product acquisition, integration, design, branding, usability, and function, interaction design focuses more on the product and user interaction. This may extend to product troubleshooting. IxD may also cover user experience that involves looking into the efficiency, fun, engagement, comfort, and pleasure of using a product.

In a user experience course, students may learn to create user personas and conduct user-centred research. Learning more about this field can help designers create an effective program that optimizes the user's experience with a product. They broaden their knowledge of UX through lessons training them to focus on user needs, considerations, abilities, and limitations.

Related: How Much Do UX Designers Make? (With Duties and Skills)

Animation

A powerful tool that IxD professionals often use to increase the visual appeal of a product and promote user engagement is animation. Animations usually attract user attention, as they can be decorative or functional. They comprise adding motion to the user interface to enhance interaction. This course teaches students to use animation to add value and promote meaningful interaction between users and digital products.

Application design

Students often learn to create and design mobile apps and applications for hand-held and wearable digital devices in application design. These include smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches that many people now consider essential to complete most of their daily tasks. Students may learn how to create responsive and adaptive designs for smaller media with an interactive and appropriate user interface that focuses on functionality through this course.

Branding

In designing a product or service, interaction designers often consider user interaction and the messaging the brand or company wants to convey to end-users. They ensure that the design's style and presentation match the brand's image and that the product design aligns with its features and qualities. In this course, students may learn how to create product designs that complement and reflect the company's image and values.

How to grow your knowledge of interaction design

A successful career in interaction design often requires time, effort, and dedication. Possessing the right qualifications in terms of education and experience is essential for starting and advancing your career as an interaction designer. Here are several ways you can broaden your knowledge:

1. Obtain a degree and complete training

If you want to pursue a career in interaction design, you may consider obtaining a degree in computer science, design, or psychology. You can also take human-computer interaction, web design, and interactive media courses. These can provide you with the fundamental theories and skills necessary to be an effective interaction designer. It may also be beneficial to explore and consider enrolling in different social science courses because IxD focuses on human-product interactions and behaviour.

Interaction designers typically grow and update their knowledge through training, or they can participate in seminars and symposiums. These are often events that professional associations organize and may provide the additional benefit of allowing you to network with other professionals.

2. Explore online resources and certifications

There are a variety of courses and certifications you may take online to improve your knowledge and skills in interaction design. While some of these videos, articles, and tutorials are free, other courses may require payment for you to gain access to them. It may be good to check if your company sponsors training for their employees.

3. Grow and build a portfolio

A portfolio showcases your skills to potential employers and customers. You may start building your portfolio by including work from your schooling or freelancing. Growing your portfolio typically involves earning more experience, which may refine and improve your knowledge base in interaction design.

Related: Online Portfolio (With Benefits and Steps to Create One)

4. Join professional organizations

For interaction designers, following the changes and innovations in the industry to maintain relevance is crucial. One effective way to keep updated on the changing industry trends is to join professional clubs and organizations. These associations often support their members, usually giving them access to current educational materials and organizing social events.

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