Psychology of Interaction Design: The Ultimate Guide

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How this course will help your career

What you will learn

  • A deep, cognitive understanding of the human behind the term “user,” including the user’s memory and decision-making and problem-solving skills
  • How to understand what the user sees when confronted by your product
  • How to identify potential pitfalls in your design before any of them become a problem for your users
  • How to elevate your design above those of your competitors by creating user-centered products, virtually free from frustrating elements
  • How to design products that provide satisfying user experience and, in turn, increase sales

“It can be helpful to understand and even experience the part of the elephant that others are experiencing.”1 Whatever your “elephant” may be, a deep understanding of human psychology is essential for all designers when creating a user-centered product with great user experience.

While many individual differences will never cease to exist between users, we are united by our shared psychology; the constraints and abilities of the human mind are much the same for all of us. Developing an understanding of these cognitive limitations and capabilities is the key to interaction design and a great user experience. Without an awareness of how we interact with things in the real and virtual worlds, you’ll find that your designs will fall short of their potential.

This course will equip you with the knowledge to relate to your users psychologically, thus allowing you to create stand-out products. Through learning about different aspects of human cognition—and how they relate to interaction design—you will find yourself much better equipped to put yourself in your users’ shoes, shifting their thoughts to the forefront and keeping a firm hold of them there when designing your next creation.

Gain an industry-trusted UX Course Certificate

You earn a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you complete the course. You can highlight them on your resume, CV, LinkedIn profile or your website.

Course Certificate

Our courses and Course Certificates are trusted by these industry leaders, who have taken up company memberships with the IDF:

Centure, Adobe, GE, IBM, Philips and SAP

Who should take this course

This is an advanced-level course; even so, it is recommended for both newcomers to design and seasoned professionals alike:

  • UX, UI, and web designers keen on applying knowledge in psychology so as to create interactive designs that are satisfying to use
  • Software engineers interested in gaining a deep understanding of human cognition and interaction design
  • Entrepreneurs who want to ship products that are user-centered and free from flaws that might blight their competitors’ products
  • Newcomers to design who are considering making a switch to UX or interaction design

Courses in the Interaction Design Foundation are designed to contain comprehensive, evidence-based content, while ensuring that the learning curve is never too steep. All participants will have the opportunity to share ideas, seek help with tests, and enjoy the social aspects afforded by our open and friendly forum.

Learn and work with a global team of designers

When you take part in this course, you will join a global multidisciplinary team working on the course and the exercises at the same time as you. You will work together to improve your skills and understanding. Your course group will be made up of an incredibly diverse group of professionals, all of whom have the same objective—to become successful designers. It’s your chance to learn, grow, and network with your peers across the planet.

1 Susan Weinschenk, The Psychologist’s View of UX Design, UXmag

Lessons in this course

  • Lessons become available at a schedule of one lesson per week.
  • Lessons remain open for you forever and have no deadlines.
  • There is no time limit to finish a course.
  • You have permanent access to your course material, answers, and classmates for the entire duration of your membership.
  • Estimated time to complete: 18 hours 12 mins spread over 11 weeks.

Lesson 0: Welcome and Introduction

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 50 mins.

  • 0.1: Welcome! (6 mins)
  • 0.2: An introduction to IDF courses (14 mins)
  • 0.3: Let our community help you (1 min)
  • 0.4: How to earn your Course Certificate (4 mins)
  • 0.5: Meet your peers online in our discussion forums (6 mins)
  • 0.6: Meet and learn from design professionals in your area (1 min)
  • 0.7: Gain Timeless Knowledge Through IDF Courses (11 mins)
  • 0.8: Mandatory lessons vs. Optional lessons (2 mins)
  • 0.9: A mix between video-based and text-based lesson content (2 mins)
  • 0.10: Sharing Ideas (5 mins)

Lesson 1: Interaction Design: An Introduction

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 2 hours 38 mins.

  • 1.1: An Introduction to Interaction Design (9 mins)
  • 1.2: Human Cognition (23 mins)
  • 1.3: Human-Computer Interaction (7 mins)
  • 1.4: Personal Interactive Experience (5 mins)
  • 1.5: Sensory Perception (10 mins)
  • 1.6: Attention (15 mins)
  • 1.7: Learning and Memory (13 mins)
  • 1.8: Language - The Five Dimensions of IxD (10 mins)
  • 1.9: Problem-solving (10 mins)
  • 1.10: Decision-Making (10 mins)
  • 1.11: Reasoning (10 mins)
  • 1.12: Reflective Cognition (10 mins)
  • 1.13: Cognition and the Interactive Experience (14 mins)
  • 1.14: Bill Moggridge: Designing Interactions (1 min)
  • 1.15: Share your Ideas (5 mins)
  • 1.16: Perception (1 min)
  • 1.17: Gillian Crampton Smith Interview (1 min)
  • 1.18: Interaction Design (1 min)
  • 1.19: Discussion Forum (5 mins)

Lesson 2: The Psychology of Interaction Design: Cognitive Frameworks

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 46 mins.

  • 2.1: Conceptual Models (13 mins)
  • 2.2: 'Folk Theories' (14 mins)
  • 2.3: The Gulfs of Execution and Evaluation (16 mins)
  • 2.4: Humans as Information Processors (10 mins)
  • 2.5: The Human Processor Model (8 mins)
  • 2.6: External Cognition (8 mins)
  • 2.7: Distributed Cognition (14 mins)
  • 2.8: Embodied Interaction (18 mins)
  • 2.9: Share your Experience (5 mins)

Lesson 3: The Gestalt Laws and Interface Design

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 2 hours 10 mins.

  • 3.1: A Valuable List of Gestalt Principles (5 mins)
  • 3.2: 'Law of Pragnanz' (9 mins)
  • 3.3: Applying the Laws (7 mins)
  • 3.4: 'Law of Similarity' (7 mins)
  • 3.5: 'Law of Proximity' (8 mins)
  • 3.6: Law of Familiarity/Meaningfulness (10 mins)
  • 3.7: 'Law of Common Fate' (2 mins)
  • 3.8: 'New' Grouping Laws (6 mins)
  • 3.9: Research (9 mins)
  • 3.10: The Law Of Element Connectedness (7 mins)
  • 3.11: 'Law of Synchrony' (6 mins)
  • 3.12: 'Law of Common Region' and The Origin of The Gestalt Laws (18 mins)
  • 3.13: Figure/Ground Organisation (8 mins)
  • 3.14: 'Figure/Ground' (8 mins)
  • 3.15: An example of Figure/Ground (6 mins)
  • 3.16: Perceptual Segregation: Design Considerations (7 mins)
  • 3.17: Gestalt Principles of Perceptual Organisation (6 mins)

Lesson 4: Visual Perception and Colour Vision

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 2 hours 40 mins.

  • 4.1: Understanding Human Vision (11 mins)
  • 4.2: Anatomy and Function of the Eye (1 min)
  • 4.3: The Fovea and Design (3 mins)
  • 4.4: Colour Vision (10 mins)
  • 4.5: Vision and Design: Using Colour (14 mins)
  • 4.6: Theories of Human Colour Perception (8 mins)
  • 4.7: Colour Blindness (12 mins)
  • 4.8: Photoreceptors fovea (6 mins)
  • 4.9: Object Perception (13 mins)
  • 4.10: Vision and Design (16 mins)
  • 4.11: Context and Other Influences (22 mins)
  • 4.12: Using Images (9 mins)
  • 4.13: Vision and Attention (13 mins)
  • 4.14: Vision and Design: Visual Perception (9 mins)
  • 4.15: Vanishing Head Illusion (5 mins)
  • 4.16: Simplicity and Bold Vibrant Colours (5 mins)
  • 4.17: Color Vision 1: Color Basics (1 min)
  • 4.18: Visual Design Experience: Positive or Negative (5 mins)

Lesson 5: Human Cognition and the Interactive Experience

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 2 hours 14 mins.

  • 5.1: Models of Perception: Complex User Interfaces (14 mins)
  • 5.2: User Specificity: Complex User Interfaces (9 mins)
  • 5.3: Cognitive Overload: Complex User Interfaces (13 mins)
  • 5.4: Designing for Recognition: Complex User Interfaces (7 mins)
  • 5.5: 'Radio Kabul': Complex User Interfaces (5 mins)
  • 5.6: User Interfaces (13 mins)
  • 5.7: Visual Working Memory (9 mins)
  • 5.8: Virtual Reality (9 mins)
  • 5.9: Complex User Interfaces (16 mins)
  • 5.10: The Power Law of Practice: Complex User Interfaces (12 mins)
  • 5.11: Deliberate Practice: Complex User Interfaces (9 mins)
  • 5.12: Helping The User (13 mins)
  • 5.13: User Interface Example (5 mins)

Lesson 6: User Error: Who is to blame?

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 9 mins.

  • 6.1: British Midlands Flight 92 (5 mins)
  • 6.2: Who is to blame?: User Error (14 mins)
  • 6.3: The USS Vincennes (11 mins)
  • 6.4: The Air Inter Flight 148 Crash (8 mins)
  • 6.5: The Space Shuttle Columbia (7 mins)
  • 6.6: The Herald of Free Enterprise (2 mins)
  • 6.7: The Three Mile Island Nuclear Disaster (7 mins)
  • 6.8: Air France Flight 447 (9 mins)
  • 6.9: User Error: Your Turn (5 mins)

Lesson 7: Tangible User Interface Design and the Psychology of Touch

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 21 mins.

  • 7.1: Designing Controls (8 mins)
  • 7.2: Specificity Vs. Generality (7 mins)
  • 7.3: Design Considerations (12 mins)
  • 7.4: One-to-One Couplings (7 mins)
  • 7.5: The Paradox of Modern Technology (11 mins)
  • 7.6: Physical Controls Vs. Touchscreens (7 mins)
  • 7.7: Touchscreens: Tangible User Interfaces (2 mins)
  • 7.8: Big Briar 331 Touch Plate (2 mins)
  • 7.9: Physical Controls (13 mins)
  • 7.10: Design Heuristics: Tangible User Interfaces (4 mins)
  • 7.11: Physical Controls Vs. Touchscreens: Tangible User Interfaces (3 mins)
  • 7.12: Discussion Forum (5 mins)

Lesson 8: Comparing User Interfaces

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 35 mins.

  • 8.1: Game Console Controllers: Applying the Information (6 mins)
  • 8.2: Car Control Panels: Applying the Information (6 mins)
  • 8.3: Heating Controls: Applying the Information (6 mins)
  • 8.4: Communication Devices: Applying the Information (6 mins)
  • 8.5: Wheelchair Control Panels: Applying the Information (6 mins)
  • 8.6: Discussion Forum (5 mins)

Lesson 9: Interaction Design Approaches

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 9 mins.

  • 9.1: An Overview: Interaction Design Approaches (15 mins)
  • 9.2: User-Centred Design: Interaction Design Approaches (12 mins)
  • 9.3: Activity-Centred Design: Interaction Design Approaches (14 mins)
  • 9.4: Systems Design: Interaction Design Approaches (13 mins)
  • 9.5: Genius Design: Interaction Design Approaches (10 mins)
  • 9.6: Discussion Forum (5 mins)

Lesson 10: Interaction Design Methods

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 2 hours 13 mins.

  • 10.1: An Overview: Interaction Design (17 mins)
  • 10.2: Usability Testing: Interaction Design (7 mins)
  • 10.3: User Testing Methods: Interaction Design (14 mins)
  • 10.4: Testing Designs: Usability Inspection Methods (17 mins)
  • 10.5: Cognitive Walkthrough: Usability Inspection Methods (15 mins)
  • 10.6: Prototyping: Interaction Design (14 mins)
  • 10.7: Scenarios: Interaction Design (10 mins)
  • 10.8: Field Studies: Interaction Design (15 mins)
  • 10.9: Combining Methods: Interaction Design (8 mins)
  • 10.10: Questionnaires: Interaction Design (11 mins)
  • 10.11: Discussion Forum (5 mins)

Lesson 11: Interaction Design: The Process

To be scheduled. Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 13 mins.

  • 11.1: Practical Issues: User-Centred Design (8 mins)
  • 11.2: What are the user's needs? (14 mins)
  • 11.3: What are the alternative designs? (10 mins)
  • 11.4: How do I choose an alternative design? (8 mins)
  • 11.5: Integrating UCD and Other Life-Cycle Models (28 mins)
  • 11.6: Discussion Forum (5 mins)
  • 11.7: Usability Testing: What to Test (1 min)

Lesson 12: Course Certificate, Final Networking, and Course Wrap-up

To be scheduled.

  • 12.1: Course Evaluation (1 min)

Learning paths

This course is part of 1 learning paths:

  • Interaction Designer
    Interaction Designer
  • How others have benefited

    Vasanth Kumar Talla

    Vasanth Kumar Talla, India

    “Lot of information which is valid and good to use in real time environment and projects.”


    Theo Braden

    Theo Braden, United States

    “I appreciated how the theory drives considerations for interaction design. It made the information much more digestible and intentional.”


    How to advance your career with IDF courses

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    Yes, you can take all the courses you would like. For example, if there are 30 active courses, you can enroll in all 30 courses at the same time and move from one to the other as you please.

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    Please note: If you have a student membership, you can take a maximum of three courses at the same time. As a student, you can thus still take all the courses you would like – free of extra charges – just as long as you finish them (or drop them) so that you don’t have more than three ongoing courses at the same time.

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    Don't worry if you missed the course. We will re-run it shortly. One of the reasons we continually open and close courses is to be able to control the classroom size.

    Networking is a large part of our value proposition, so we want just the right number of people inside the courses. That is also why we display the "XX % percent booked" on our course icons.

    We’ll re-schedule the course and make it available for sign-up on https://www.interaction-design.org/courses in only about a week (or perhaps a little bit longer). The actual start date of the course will be a few weeks after sign-ups begin too. We’ve found that this is the best way to maximize flexibility and convenience for everyone, especially you as you put your course program together.

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    All we recommend is that you try to stick to the same schedule as other participants. The reason is they may have moved on to other lessons, thereby meaning you could miss out on the social aspects of the course(s). However, we anticipate that there will be a constant flow of participants working through different lessons and courses, so overall you are unlikely to miss out. We will also be running all courses again — so there really is no rush.

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    There is no specified time that certificates will be awarded — instead, they are given to participants as and when they have answered all questions, even if this is long after the official end date.

    How do I add my Course Certificate to my LinkedIn profile?

    Below is a step-by-step guide on how to add your IDF course(s) to your LinkedIn profile:

    1. Go to your LinkedIn profile page and scroll to your "Accomplishments” section.

    2. Click on the plus button and choose “Certification”.

    untitled 8

    3. In the following fields add:

    • Certification name – Course name
    • Certification authority – The Interaction Design Foundation
    • License number – Your membership ID number (it's written on your certificate)
    • Time period – Input the date written on your certificate (e.g., May 2017)
    • Check the button “This certification does not expire”
    • Certification URL: Input the certificate URL provided on your course page

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    4. Click on the save button.

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    Congratulate yourself!
    You’ve made a great accomplishment by earning your course certificate, and now the world knows about it!

    How do I add the IDF Membership Certificate to my LinkedIn Profile?

    Below is a step-by-step guide on how to add your certificate to your LinkedIn profile:

    1. Go to your LinkedIn profile page and scroll to your "Accomplishments” section.

    2. Click on the plus button and choose “Certification”.
    untitled 8

    3. In the following fields add:
    • Certification name – Membership Certificate
    • Certification authority – The Interaction Design Foundation
    • License number – Your membership ID number (it's written on your membership certificate)
    • Time period – Input the date when you joined our community (e.g., May 2017)
    • Check the button “This certification does not expire”
    • Certification URL: Input the certificate URL provided on your profile page

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    4. Click on the save button.
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    It is as simple as that. Now, anyone who visits your profile can see your certificates!

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