When we think of interactive design our mind jumps to things such as apps for mobile phones and tablet computers or maybe websites, but really it references any design that accommodates bi-directional contact between a user and a device. Essentially if the user’s input controls the output of a device creating a back and forth dynamic between the two parties then we have interactive design.
It’s something we encounter almost constantly in our daily lives, and if done well we won’t even notice it. For instance, if you’re watching television and you turn up the volume there will be a display on your screen showing that change, providing you with visual feedback that your input has been recognised by the device. Similarly, if you’re using a computer and you hover your mouse over a button, it’s common for this to change colour or otherwise show that clicking here will affect the output on your screen. These consideration and visual style of these subtle interactions and how they move between their various states are the focus of interactive design, and for the designer ensuring that these are intuitive, familiar and friendly is the goal.
How do I design for interactivity?
The first thing to remember is that if you’re design is going to be interactive it needs to incorporate an element of motion. By motion we don’t mean videos, but rather the design of multiple states. For example, if I were to design a dropdown list for a website I’d need to think about how this needs to look at different points during the users interaction with the element. The example below shows how this might look before I’ve interacted with it and once I’ve finished interacting with it, but also how it should look during the interaction or if the field is disabled. These are what we call ‘states’ and each one represents a different moment in the user’s interaction with the field.
But it’s not just about these static states it also about how the user moves between these states. The example below shows this principle well. When the user hovers over the ‘request to join’ button the tooltip doesn’t suddenly appear. It slides and fades in to view, creating a smoother experience. Similarly the background image is clickable, so the designer has employed a smooth increase in the images size on hover to imply this interactivity. Click the image to see the parts of interactivity in this example.
What are the best tools for the job?
It’s common for designers to use different tools for the designing the static images and the transitions between the states.
Commonly used tools for static designs are:
- Adobe XD
Tools for user interface animation include:
- Principle (only available for Mac)
- Adobe After Effects
There are some tools that handle both such as Facebook’s Origami Studio and Framer X. These are both powerful tools as they allow for greater flexibility and interactivity in your designs, but they also have a steep learning curve.
Where does interactive design sit in the spectrum of design disciplines?
Interactive design is linked very closely with user experience, user interface and visual design and is built on the same fundamentals. Some of the main considerations are:
Generally, when you are looking at interactive design we are working as part of a wider project or within the guidelines of a brand, so consideration for that context is important.
If you’d like to pick our brains on how to integrate interactive design into your project please feel free to give us a call to set up a consultation, no obligation. Call 0345 200 26 50 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.