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What is Interactive Design?

This article explores how interactive design principles can help brands elevate their digital experiences.

What is Interactive Design?

In today’s digital world, where more and more customer experiences occur online, brands have an obligation to ensure that they are as interactive as possible.

With more and more brands embracing digital transformation, and moving their goods and services onto supporting platforms, making these interactions positive and seamless is the key to success in any given industry.

So, what are the main principles of interactive design? And how can brands leverage these principles to craft better experiences for consumers and audiences alike? Read on to learn more.

The Definition of Interactive Design

Interactive design (also known as ‘interaction design’) is an aspect of web/platform design that falls under the umbrella of user experience (or ‘UX’).

Simply put, the term refers to the ways in which designers can streamline and simplify customers' or users' interactions with their digital interfaces by using logical and thought-out behaviours and actions.

What this means is that a skilled designer will be able to intuit the needs of users and work to create products, services, and platforms that allow them to achieve their key objectives in the most efficient and pleasing way possible.

Ultimately, effective interactive design works as a form of implicit communication between designer and user — harnessing form, function, and aesthetics to direct users and make their interactions more intuitive and responsive.

For instance, a designer might examine how typography and icons might complement the text on a webpage or app to help better communicate their messages. They might also think about what hardware their users rely upon (such as desktop vs mobile) and how that might affect their interaction with the platform.

Of course, the more immersive the medium used to communicate with users, means more tools for the designer to draw upon to capture the attention and interest of the users. For example, sound effects, animation, and white space are elements that can be used in an app or a platform to communicate intent to users, guide their interactions, and foster loyalty and repeat usage.

Key Principles of Interactive Design

British academic and designer Gillian Crampton-Smith famously outlined four distinct principles (or ‘dimensions) underlying all interactive design decisions, with a fifth being added to the mix later by interaction designer Kevin Silver. These five principles are:

Dimension One: Text

Words are still the most common way in which web pages, apps, or digital programs communicate with users. Because of this, designers need to ensure that this text is rendered as simply and plainly as possible, to ensure that the audience isn’t left confused by it.

Dimension Two: Visuals

Icons and graphics are other visual tools that can complement text and nudge users into performing certain required or desired actions. Meanwhile, the text itself should endeavour to be typographically appropriate to the subject matter and target audience, as well as easily comprehensible to others.

Dimension Three: 3D Objects and Space

This dimension considers how users will physically interact with apps or platforms in a real space, as well as the technology they will use to do so. For example, has the designer made their app easy to use on a smartphone on a busy train during rush hour? Or is the platform clunky and unintuitive for users with a mouse and keyboard accessing it at home?

Dimension Four: Time

This aspect of the design journey takes into account all material that changes over the course of time, such as animations, GIFs, video content, as well as sound effects, cues, and musical stings. Again, these are all useful tools for invoking an emotional response in users or encouraging them to perform desired actions.

Dimension Five: Behavior

This final dimension takes into account the actions that users perform using the product/platform in question, and modifies it based on appropriate feedback. It also questions the motivations of users and interrogates why they choose to interact with the product in certain ways.

The Role of Designers

With all of the above in mind, what role do the designers themselves play when crafting these products?

Any interactive designer worth their salt will work to stay up-to-date in their knowledge of interaction models and principles. They will also have as thorough an understanding as possible of the motivations and behaviours of their target users, and how to steer and guide them based on the context cues they have responded well to in the past.

To that end, interactive designers should work to better understand their audience or userbase before creating their actual designs by first crafting detailed customer/user personas based on their own research.

By using these personas as a design reference point, the designer can ensure that all of their design choices are capable of pushing the users towards the outcome or objective they expect of them.

Future Platforms: Crafting loyalty-building digital experiences

Is your brand looking to create engaging digital experiences for users and customers? Future Platforms can help. As website and app development masters with a significant history of creating immersive digital assets for a number of businesses across industries, we have plenty of knowledge and expertise to share when it comes to successful interactive design.

We’ll work alongside your designers to understand your target users, and will craft digital experiences that they’ll be able to use easily and intuitively. So, if you’d like to learn more about how Future Platforms can help to level up your design and increase interactivity, then please contact our team today.