Lecture 3: Interactive Design Process

Nathan Shedroff’s Diagram (Experience Design 1, New Riders, 2001) models the process of communicating and understanding. It’s describing the flow from data to wisdom.

Interactive Design Process Overview

Pre-project: The development process itself is actually wrapped in a management  layer responsible for the meeting of deadlines, schedules, budgets and the building of teams and relationships. During this phase, several members of various teams may be involved but the goals are to create or respond to the request proposal that succinctly outlines the needs of the project from the clients views, this is a bit like the brief.

Concept and planning: The first real development towards a solution takes place during the concept and planning phase. This is where the goals, messages and audiences for the project are explored and decided. These are the most important questions that must be addressed and make the most impact on the project.

Design Prototype and Specification: In this phase the first examples and solutions are derived. It’s the most intense complex phase and involves the most creativity, coordination and inspiration. This phase is where the development team develop the answers about how in other words, the solutions. This phase will see the developments of many prototypes, often the first merely in paper and sketches.

Prototypes are examples and not the final solution, they’re usually hand coded, they don’t actually work as intended, only appear to.

These prototypes should be tested with potential users to determine if they really meet the needs of the audience. It is essential that the functions are tested and problems are corrected.

Production: At this stage, all answers should’ve been answered by the functionally and specification prototype. As the project comes together it can be built into temporarily working instances called builds. These builds will go through many iterations before complete, often labelled alpha 1, 2 , 3 etc. When production has finished, the project isn’t yet, it still needs to be tested and made live. At this point everything should be finished and integrated into the beta build.

Testing: This is the phase that is most likely forgotten, understaffed, under-scheduled and under budgeted. It is essential that everything is tested before it’s made live.

Interactive Design Process – User Personas, Artefact Personas and User Scenario


Personas are fictional archetypal users. The genius of the personal methodology isn’t the idea of directing your communication towards an archetypal user. The genius is that it requires you to fake and record and articulate who that archetypal user is, so you can make informed conscious and consistent design decisions and this is important.

So from this point of view you can’t do interaction design without personas because designing in the absence of conscious, articulated vision of the audience isn’t really design.

Every successful design starts with an understanding of who will use the product. You need to start with quality of research then look for patterns and behaviours and goals among the people you interview. Then out of these interviews you create fictional archetypal users or personas who have the same concerns and goals. Personas guide the design from begin to end.

What is a scenario?

A scenario is a narrative describing foreseeable interactions of types of users (characters) and the system. Scenarios include information about goals, expectations, motivations, actions and reactions. Scenarios are neither predictions nor forecasts, but rather attempts to reflect on or portray the way in which a system is used in the context of daily activity.

To develop a product persona these are the kind of questions you could ask to get an idea of the desired personality of the thing you’re designing.

Product personality questions:

  • If the interface were a person, what would she or he be like?
  • How would you expect users to react when they first view the product?
  • How would you describe this product to a friend?
  • How is the product different from competitive products?
  • Which celebrity (or car, movie etc.) is the product most like? Least like? Why?

Lecture 2: Interaction – Interactivity

What is interaction and interactive design?

In interactive design, there are 5 key design areas that contribute to the design of interactive products. These are:

  • Interactivity
  • Information Architecture
  • Time and motion
  • Narrative
  • Interface

You can’t interact with anything unless there’s an interface and you can’t design an interface unless you’ve sorted out the underlying information design first.

What does an interactive designer do?

Bill Verplank’s definition of what interactive designers do:

‘An interaction designer needs to answer three key questions, about how people act, how they feel and how they understand.’

“A person we’re designing for does something and we provide affordances. As designers we design the way that the machine gives feedback and finally there’s the question of what kind of knowledge do we expect of our users. Can we design good maps for them to hold in their heads? Can we design the emergency procedures step by step on how to do things? Thats the first step of what we interaction designers do.”

Something interaction designers have to pay attention to is cognition, how humans process information, how they perceive the world, what their internal mental model is of the outside world, especially when they’re designing for something on screen. It’s very different to a physical object in a way that someone perceives what they can do with the thing. Though this concept of affordances can actually be translated to screen interaction.

Sharp, Rogers and Preece define interactive design as:

“..designing interactive products to support people in their everyday and working lives.”


When we think of the adjective interactive, we think of a specific meaning;

  • of or relating to a program that responds to user activity (computer science)
  • working together so the total effect is greater than the sum (2 or more)
  • capable of acting on or influencing each other

What is interaction?

A few common interactions that you might have during the day include ones with mobile phones, vending machines, books, online shopping websites and even conversations.

In an interaction, your needs, wants and desires have an effect or response that you can both understand and recognise and you can do this through your eyes, ears, touch, taste and smell.

Continuums of Interactivity:

One way to consider the meanings of interactivity, is to envision all experiences and products as inhabiting a continuum of interactivity.

Interactivity can include the amount of control the users or audience has over the tools, pace or content, the amount of choice this control offers and the ability to use the tool or content to be productive or to create. Therefore all products and experiences can be placed along this continuum. It’s important to note that there’s no good or bad side of this continuum, the only judgement should be is if the level of activity or place along the continuum is appropriate to the goals of the experience or messages to be communicated.

Gillian Crampton Smith says:

“…one of the things we need as interactive designers is a clear mental model of what it is that we’re interacting with. We need to know where we are in the system, we need to know what we can do next, where we can go and what’s going to happen when we’ve gone there.”

“When we design a computer based system or a machine, we’re designing not just what it looks like but how it behaves and we’re designing the quality of the way we interact with it and this is really what interaction design is, it’s designing this quality. For instance, if you’re playing a game, the kind of interaction and the kind of attention you’re prepared to give to it is very different from if you’re programming your central heating.”

“Interaction design needs a fusion. It’s not just vision, it’s not just sound. It’s a mixture of things that happen over time, visual things, sonic things, moving images and we need to draw on existing disciplines to make a new type of design which is interactive design.”