Interaction Design Process

Your constantly-updated definition of Interaction Design Process and collection of topical content and literature

What are Interaction Design Process?

The interaction design (IxD) process is what designers use to create solutions centered on users’ needs, aims and behavior when interacting with products. The IxD process involves 5 stages: discovering what users need/want, analyzing that, designing a potential solution, prototyping it and implementing and deploying it.

See how to apply the interaction design process to gear your solutions to the right aspects of your users’ world.

The 5 Stages of the Interaction Design Process

The designer does not begin with some preconceived idea. Rather, the idea is the result of careful study and observation, and the design a product of that idea.

-Paul Rand, famous graphic designer and art director

With the IxD process, you can build highly intuitive, recognizable interfaces that provide seamless experiences for users and prove your brand thoroughly understands them, their contexts and the goals they seek to achieve.

Here are the five stages that the IxD process typically involves:

  1. Find the users needs/wants—It’s easy to assume you know what users want/need and their relevant contexts. Discover their real requirements:
    1. Observe people.
    2. Interview people.
    3. Examine existing solutions—while remembering it’s hard to envisage future needs, technologies, etc.
  2. Do analysis to sort and order your findings so they make sense. This may be through a:
    1. Narrative/story of how someone uses a system.
    2. Task analysis, breaking down a user’s steps/sub-steps.
  3. Design a potential solution according to design guidelines and fundamental design principles (e.g., giving appropriate feedback for users’ actions). Use the best techniques to match how users will interact with it in terms of, for example, navigation.
  4. Start prototyping—Give users an idea of what the product will look like and let them test it, and/or give it to experts to evaluate its effectiveness using heuristics.
  5. Implement and deploy what you have built.

The IxD process is iterative—nobody designs anything right the first time, especially regarding more innovative solutions. It may indeed take many iterations before you pinpoint the ideal version of a solution. So, you (and your design team) should continue testing and adapting appropriate changes around an ever-clearer understanding of your users’ needs. For example, you could gather user feedback and monitor support chats to find areas for improvement.

It's important to understand the interaction design process is a general idea of how you can start from your users’ needs and progress towards a fitting solution. Similar design processes exist. Design thinking is one of the more notable of these, where you work to gain and leverage vital insights to fine-tune optimal features. Only when you know your users and empathize with them can you appreciate their real-world needs, desires and pain points.

Applying the IxD Process in Real-World Contexts

Ideally, you’ll be able to work through all 5 stages of the IxD process. However, you’ll tend to find that time and financial constraints get in the way. So, you will most likely need to make trade-offs. This doesn’t mean you should cut corners on vital areas such as user research and testing. Instead, examine where you can achieve the most progress by using the most cost-effective techniques to keep your design on course—for example, you can use paper prototyping early on to get a more concrete idea of what might work best. Likewise, you should aim for a minimum viable solution (e.g., a serviceable, marketable beta version of an app) rather than wait to release a “perfect” product. Problems are harder to identify than solve, so you should approach assumptions and feedback carefully. You and your team can use heuristic evaluation to help you identify the most obvious usability errors, and focus on fixing them first. Remember that for users to enjoy a seamless experience, they should never have to stop to think about your design. They certainly should never feel frustrated with it. So, you should consider:

  1. The moment of use—Ask questions such as “Does this notification have too much text?”.
  2. How your interactive elements combine as a whole in regard to the designs overall user experience and usability based on your users’ contexts—For example, to design a running-watch app, you should create an interface that not only motivates users but also keeps them safe as they won’t have to read overly detailed text or tap through complicated sequences while running.

The IxD process can help you systematically uncover your users’ needs so you can address these in your design. From there, you can spot obstacles to fulfilling those needs. An example of an obstacle can be something as small as a superfluous word in a message. Or it can be a major issue that shows your brand has overlooked certain users’ contexts, such as signal strength or one-handed use issues for underground/subway users. When you apply the IxD process well so you can work with such valuable insights about your users, you can help show your brand understands what these (potential) customers want—whoever and wherever they are. Naturally, a well-designed solution helps not only users, but businesses too.

Learn More about the Interaction Design Process

For more about the interaction design process, take our course:

This eye-opening, step-by-step blog shows how the interaction design process applies to the digital marketing world:

See how the interaction design process fits in with agile development:

Literature on Interaction Design Process

Here’s the entire UX literature on Interaction Design Process by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

All Literature