Post by
Nasir Uddin
Published
August 7, 2023
Last Updated
April 6, 2024
Catregory
Design Process

What does the term 'interaction' truly mean to you? Isn't it about the communication and understanding shared between two individuals? Well, now we have gone beyond that; it’s also about how humans and digital interfaces behave toward one another. When it comes to crafting this interaction is all about making it seamless for both humans and computers, with the ultimate goal of ensuring user satisfaction.

When designing interaction, the user is always at the center. It's about creating an interaction that is intuitive, engaging, and easy to interact with. To do this, designers stick to specific effective principles that guide their interaction design efforts.

So, what exactly are those effective interaction design principles you also need to follow as a designer?

Here are 11 effective interaction design principles-

  1. Consistency
  2. Discoverability
  3. Predictability
  4. Learnability
  5. Mapping
  6. Simplicity and Minimalism
  7. Error Prevention
  8. Affordability
  9. Conceptual Model and Mental Model
  10. Feedback 
  11. Forgiveness

Is just knowing these terms sufficient for you? Probably not. If so, continue toward subsequent sections.

1. Consistency

It’s nothing new that consistency is the best practice in every aspect of life, especially in interaction design. It helps your users understand and use a product way more easily. Think about it: Users don't have to learn new things when everything works the same way throughout. It's like a familiar friend guiding you.

Humans love predictability, so consistency makes users feel comfortable and in control. Plus, it reduces learning time, as users get the hang of things faster. And it's not just that – consistent design connects the dots between different UI parts, making everything clear and easy to find. Therefore, it's an essential principle for interaction design to boost usability, trust, and overall user experience!

E-wallet mobile app design
Interaction Design for E-Wallet-Mobile-App

2. Discoverability

Imagine you've added a product to your cart on a shopping site, but when you attempt to locate the cart option to finalize your order, it's nowhere to be found. Quite frustrating, isn't it? I've personally encountered this issue countless times. This scenario underscores the importance of the principle of discoverability in interaction design.

When you're crafting the interaction for a product, it's crucial to ensure that every element within the product is easily discoverable. This approach lowers user frustration and enhances overall user satisfaction through effective interactions. By consistently bearing this principle in mind during the design process and tailoring your design accordingly, you can elevate your design to a whole new level.

Docly medical health app

3. Predictability

What if you could foresee your journey before embarking on it? Imagine how much smoother and more efficient your journey would become. Well, the same idea applies to a digital platform. Nowadays, users expect nothing less than predictability from a product. This expectation not only saves them valuable time and effort but also ensures a seamless experience.

Integrating this principle into your interaction design will open the way for a frictionless user journey. This, in turn, empowers users to engage with your product more effectively. Let's be honest; haven't you felt a sense of frustration when faced with a website or app that seems to operate in a random and unpredictable manner, making even simple tasks a time-consuming ordeal?

That's where your role as an interaction designer gains significance. Your responsibility lies in crafting designs that offer predictability to your target audience. This holds immense importance, particularly when you consider the realms of user interaction and experience. After all, the key to successful interaction design is making the user's path as clear and foreseeable as possible.

4. Learnability

Do you find yourself more inclined to engage with someone you don't know or with someone who comes across as suspicious and hard to get to know? The same principle applies to websites or apps. They ought to be user-friendly and easily memorable. 

Your users shouldn't have to put in much effort or spend time figuring out how to use your product. As an interaction designer, your goal is to make the learning process intuitive and effortless for them. It shouldn't be so complex that customers lose track of their experience with your product. This approach can potentially boost credibility and lend purpose to their interactions.

Maintaining consistency throughout your entire product is key to achieving this. That's why consistency and learnability are interconnected to a certain extent.

5. Mapping

Mapping in interaction design is like your brain's GPS. It's about making sure that what you do on an app or website matches what happens. When they match, things are easy to understand.

For example, when you see a search icon, you know it's for searching. That's mapping. When you watch a progress bar fill up, you know how much time is left. That's mapping, too. And when you check a box, you're selecting something – simple mapping.

Designers follow some rules:

  1. Consistency: Keep things the same so you're never confused.
  2. Clarity: Make everything clear so you don't have to guess.
  3. Affordances: Make things look like what they do.
  4. Feedback: Get a response when you do something so you know it worked.
interaction design
Source: dribbble.com

This concept works hand in hand with feedback, creating a smooth user experience. Almost everything we use requires mapping between how we control it and what it does. In interface design, this is like connecting a control, like a button, with its specific function. This connection between design and function helps users seamlessly blend controls with their understanding of how things work, making interactions smoother and more intuitive.

6. Simplicity and Minimalism

Nowadays, people really value design and aesthetics. The overwhelming sensation while using products is something they actively avoid. Contrast this with the preferences of individuals from the past two decades who preferred funkiness and abundance. However, the current scenario is markedly different. Simplicity now conveys a sense of class and refinement. Whether it's a digital interface or a physical item, people expect simplicity.

Simplicity and Minimalism Design
Source: Dribbble.com

But it's not just about aesthetics; simplicity greatly enhances the user experience, particularly in the realm of digital products. One key aspect of minimalism is its ability to make users feel at ease and connected. Integrating this principle into your interaction design process makes your creations relatable to a broader audience. Consequently, this approach is pivotal in achieving your ultimate goal – facilitating effective interaction between the design and the users.

7. Error Prevention

It is essential to have clear error notifications, but the most effective systems actively seek to eliminate the possibility of errors occurring in the first place. Either get rid of conditions that are likely to cause mistakes or check for them and give users a chance to confirm before they take action.

Slips and mistakes are the two kinds of mistakes. Slips are accidents that happen when you aren’t paying attention. Mistakes are deliberate mistakes that happen when the user’s mental model and the design don’t match up.

Error messages should be written in clear language (no error codes), explain exactly what went wrong, and suggest a way to fix it. These error messages should also be shown to make them easier for users to see and understand. This approach makes the interaction smoother and more convincing. 

8. Affordability

Affordability is a trait or feature of an object that indicates what can be done with it. In a nutshell, affordances are indications that indicate how users may engage with something, whether physical or digital. For example, when you see a door handle, it is a hint that you can use it to open the door. 

In the user experience (UX) world, it's like the button you see in the image. Pressing it takes you back. Affordances make things easier for users by guiding how they interact with their lives in real and virtual aspects.

To apply affordances in your design, you can add indicators. These could be marks, sounds, or labels that show something can be done. For instance, the words on buttons in the image are indicators. They let you know what will happen if you press them.

What maximizes affordances on your website?

When used effectively, affordances reduce errors, make product use easier, and increase conversions. Here are guidelines for creating the best affordances:

  • Always prioritize users by understanding their needs and situations. This info helps you design helpful affordances.
  • Make affordances simple and logical so users intuitively understand them.
  • Use indicators to give users extra info about your affordances. Text labels, highlights, colors, and shadows can make them clear.
  • Stick to common design principles to ensure users easily grasp your affordances.
  • Use size to show which affordances are most important for users.

By keeping affordability in mind, you can design user-friendly experiences that are both intuitive and effective.

9. Conceptual Model and Mental Model

A conceptual model is the designer's idea of how a system works. Good design makes sure it matches what users expect, improving ease of use and satisfaction.

Imagine the lock screen on your smartphone. You see a sign or indicator prompting you to slide right/left or flip up/down to unlock. This illustrates a conceptual model focusing on simplifying actions and providing task-completion instructions. Taking the conceptual model into account is pivotal when shaping a product's interaction. This approach places the user experience at the forefront and lends depth to your design.

Meanwhile, a mental model is understanding and expectations of how a system or interface works based on their prior experiences and knowledge. To clarify this, let's consider an example: When you purchase a new smartphone, you don't need to go through the user manual to figure out how to use it. 

This is because you anticipate some similarity to your previous phone. With this assumption in mind, you can efficiently operate your new phone. By sticking to this principle, you can significantly reduce the learning curve associated with interacting with your new product.

To ensure a productive interaction design, these principles can provide valuable assistance to you.

10. Feedback

Clarity in user interactions is essential. A well-crafted design provides timely feedback, ensuring users remain informed and engaged.

In the realm of system interaction, users seek reassurance that their actions yield results. Did the button press register? Was the chosen item added to the cart? This fundamental facet of interface design guides users seamlessly, bolstering their confidence without undue effort.

Giving users real-time system status empowers them to evaluate past actions and chart their course. Predictable interactions build trust in both product and brand, fortifying the user experience.

design feedback

Feedback mechanisms can be elegant, from color shifts upon button presses to progress bars for lengthier processes. These visual cues affirm system responsiveness, alleviating uncertainty and curbing needless repetition.

Incorporating immediate feedback empowers users to diagnose and rectify errors swiftly, amplifying their mastery over functionality. This, in turn, aligns with the core tenets of user-centric design.

11. Forgiveness

It's totally normal for users to make mistakes when using digital products. Let me give you an example. When you were selecting a whole column in Google Sheets, your finger split, and you accidentally hit delete instead of enter. As a result, all your data was deleted, but you don't have to worry; just press Ctrl+Z, and you'll have it back.

This is what forgiveness means in interaction design. As a designer, you should make the interface forgiving, like in the example. The unwanted error is universal, but the consequences shouldn’t be harsh when using a product. You can design a forgiving interaction by following these methods- 

Minimizing Errors: The design aims to reduce errors through clear instructions, logical layout, and intuitive controls.

Error-free Actions: The design prevents disastrous outcomes even if you make an error. For instance, a forgiving interface could feature a history function to recover deleted text effortlessly.

Reversible Actions: You can easily undo mistaken actions with a forgiving interface. An 'Undo' button could swiftly reverse accidental text deletion.

Warning about Irreversible Actions: To prevent accidental irreversible actions like file deletion, the design prominently warns you before proceeding.

Customization with Safety Nets: If the interface allows customization, it also offers an option to restore default settings. Experimenting with fonts and styles doesn't lock you in, and you can always return to the default look.

The forgiving interface concept is all about making the technology work for users rather than against them. It makes the learning curve smoother for beginners and enhances the overall experience for users of all levels.

Conclusion

Basic user interface design principles should be combined with interaction design driven by goals to achieve great user experience design. An effective interaction design uses uncomplicated, well-defined goals, a powerful purpose, and an intuitive user interface (UI). 

The goal-driven interaction design aims to make user interactions as straightforward and uncomplicated as possible by presenting users with no more information than is absolutely necessary for them to complete a particular task. Especially when we design in Musemind, we always follow these essential 11 interaction design principles.

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Nasir Uddin
CEO at Musemind
Nasir Uddin, Co-Founder and CEO at Musemind, brings over a decade of experience in dynamic UX design. With a background at prestigious companies like Panther, On Deck, Microsoft, and Motley Fool. His leadership has transformed Musemind into a trusted destination for comprehensive product design solutions.
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