Methodology of Interaction Design

Most interaction designers follow a very similar process in creating their designs. Although a similar methodology is used, the final results widely differ from one designer to the next because multiple solutions exist to the design challenges. Some designs are already tried and tested, so they are chosen for speed and simplicity of implementation, but many designers understand that one of the keys to success in the industry is innovation. These designers always try to find the newer and better solution instead of reusing the old ones.

The methodology followed by interaction designers consists of six steps. However, the six-step cycle is often repeated several times until a final solution is settled on and deemed ready to integrate into the product shipped to users. The six steps to the methodology follow:

  1. Research – Standard design research techniques are used to investigate the habits of users, the capabilities of the technology and the environment in which it will be used. Designers may use the previously published research, perform research on their own or use a third-party research firm.
  2. Conceptual Design – Once the research is complete, it must be analysed on several different levels. The possibilities according to available technology are analysed. User preferences and requirements are then analysed. Finally, the business market is analysed for demand and profitability. The conceptual interaction design may take weeks or months to refine and usually involves meetings with several departments or teams.

    Designers must incorporate all of the research data in their conceptual design. This may require the use of several analysis tools, such as the use of user profiles so that a design will appeal to a specific targeted group. Many other tools common to the design field may also be used. These tools may include creating possible scenarios that are drawn up on storyboards and the use of charts that show the work flow envisioned for users of the product.

    After brainstorming several possibilities, a final design is settled upon with concrete reasons for the choice, including a vision statement and the goals expected to be achieved as a result of the design.

  3. Alternate Design – The final conceptual design is only one of many conceptual designs. After choice for a conceptual design is made, alternative designs are created to solve some potential problems that may develop from the leading design. The alternative designs also help to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the primary design. As alternative designs are conceived, some ideas may immediately be incorporated into the primary design.

    While creating alternate designs, the functionality and features of the product are heavily scrutinized. The alternate designs may have completely different forms and completely different features. Optional features may be added or omitted. Detailed schematics, also called wireframes, are drawn up. These schematics include drawings, graphics, blueprints and annotations describing features available and how the product operates.

  4. Prototype – After the primary conceptual design and one or more alternative designs are complete, prototypes of each are created. Prototypes are not always completely usable products. Prototypes may be divided into the three separate trials. One prototype may be used to test the role of the product in the life of the user. A second prototype may be used to test ergonomics and aesthetics so the look and feel can be accepted or refined. The third type of prototype is from testing implementation of the product. These prototypes are used because they emphasize the product’s interactivity.
  5. Implementation – Implementation of the design requires the oversight of the interaction designers to make sure the plans are followed exactly as conceived. If a problem exists in implementing the design, the designer can quickly correct the problem. Last-minute design changes are often made by designers during the implementation process.
  6. Testing – When a final product is ready, it is tested for bugs and usability before it is released. The designer is involved in the testing process in case changes have to be made to the interaction capabilities of the product. Testing may also include consumer or user testing in an attempt to judge the future success of the product before it is manufactured en masse. Depending on the results of the testing, the product can move forward, be sent back for changes or be totally scrapped, requiring the six-step process to be fully restarted.