Interaction design, or IxD, is focused on creating engaging experiences for users within a product, through specific touchpoints, actions, and goal completions. It is one of the facets of user experience (UX) design, alongside user research, content strategy, and information architecture. 

Interaction Design is the creation of a dialogue between a person and a product, system, or service. This dialogue is both physical and emotional in nature and is manifested in the interplay between form, function, and technology as experienced over time.
John Kolko, Thoughts on Interaction Design

As its name suggests, interaction design specifically refers to designing interaction points between the product’s interface and the user. This is in contrast to the more holistic focus of UX design, which is concerned with the user’s perspective and experience from start to finish.

The Five Dimensions Framework

In his book, Designing Interactions, Bill Moggridge uses the concept of four dimensions (1D, 2D, 3D, 4D) to address the ways a user interacts with a product. The fifth dimension—behavior—is generally included in user-centered design practices to more deeply acknowledge and address variables that are introduced on the part of the user.

These dimensions are a way to account for each component of the interaction design toolkit, as well as provide more context into how each dimension relies and builds on one another.

The five dimensions are:

  1. Words: the written text that forms the basis of a user’s interaction. An intuitive design must use words/text that not only accurately represents the content and function of a screen, but are also readily understood by the user.
  2. Visual representations: the “other” visual elements on a screen that further emphasize the meaning of the words. Typography, graphics, and icons are just a few of the visual representations that are used to supplement (or entirely replace) the text on a page. A search icon, for example, can eliminate the need for any written text since its functionality is universally understood. 
  3. Physical space or objects: the physical environment that affects a user’s experience within the product. Interaction design looks at how a user would interact with the product using a desktop and mouse setup, for example, versus a tablet or mobile device with a touch screen.
  4. Time of interaction: elements that move and change over time, like videos or animations, can be a powerful way to engage with users and make the product experience more exciting. 
  5. User’s action and reaction behaviors: what happens within the product when a user performs an action. For example, a success message might appear with a confirmation message when a user submits an order on a checkout page.  

Interaction Design: Part of a UX Designer's Toolkit

Every UX designer will work with design interactions in some way as a part of the UX design process for digital products. But the depth of this work will vary from project to project and team to team. 

Interested in learning more about how to design user-friendly experiences? Check out out other glossary options below, or head over to see how our UX bootcamp can help you turn your passion for design into a UX/UI career.

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