Interaction Design (IxD) Symposium

April 14, 2006

Presented by Dave Heller, Kim Goodwin, Luke Wroblewski, and Frank Ramirez

The IxD Symposium—an all-day pre-conference seminar—was presented by Dave Heller, Kim Goodwin, Luke Wroblewski, and Frank Ramirez of IxDA (Interaction Design Association). It was well worth the additional cost as each presenter gave practical advice based on real projects.

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Dave Heller began by describing the difference between interaction design (IxD) and interface design as structure versus presentation. For example, a designer can present a single selection (interaction design) as a radio button or a combo box (interface design). He went on to say that, in general, people have to find something, interact with it, then transact. He also gave many examples of both good and bad interaction design, as shown in Figure 1, and most interesting to me, argued that there is no difference between Web design and software design, just a difference in context. (I disagree!)

Figure 1—An example of good interaction design
Example of good interaction design

Kim Goodwin’s presentation was very practical and applicable. She went into detail about the roles on a Cooper design team and Cooper’s goal-directed design process, which consists of a research phase, user modeling, requirements definition, framework definition, design, and development. The key point is to focus on goals rather than tasks, because ultimately, users perform tasks to achieve certain goals. Kim also offered many pearls of wisdom, including the following:

  • Ignore detail in the beginning of the design process.
  • Personas are based on behavioral data only. Don’t think about what users are likely to do; think about what you know they will do.
  • Design is not an engineering problem.
  • In persona development, there is a huge problem with self-reported behavior.
  • Usability is a form of QA.
  • There were many more, but I’ll stop there.

Luke Wroblewski gave a great presentation on visual design. Much of his presentation consisted of before-and-after examples—like those shown in Figures 2 and 3—which helped to show how good visual design can have a huge impact. Luke also included a hands-on exercise, in which he divided the room into teams, gave everyone a problematic Web application page, and asked each team to redesign it. Figure 4 shows my team at work. He then showed his redesign, so we could compare our work and thought processes to his. I really enjoyed the exercise, but would have liked to see Luke extend it a little more by adding some context—personas, goals, and so on—beyond an isolated visual.

Figure 2—Before visual communication
Before visual communication
Figure 3—After visual communication
After visual communication
Figure 4—Kyle Pero, Russ Wilson, and Nasir Barday hard at work
Kyle Pero, Russ Wilson, and Nasir Barday hard at work

And finally, there was even some disagreement, which was both honest and refreshing. For example, while Dave argued that we should not rely on users using the browser’s Back button to cancel or undo operations, Luke pointed out that this was a common idiom. People are used to undoing things by going back. There was also some debate when Dave stated that he liked pop-up windows. Many feel that pop-ups are rarely the best solution, because they challenge common usability principles by breaking a user’s workflow and locking the user into one state, but Dave argued that they are a natural part of the workflow. I’m also fairly certain that the presenters did not agree one hundred percent on the distinctions between interaction design (IxD), information architecture (IA), and interface design.

All in all, a great day-long seminar given by some very talented and accomplished presenters. I highly recommend it.

For more information about the IxD Symposium, see Pabini Gabriel-Petit’s overview of it. 

Photo by David Heller

Director, Cloud UX, at Google

Seattle, Washington, USA

Russell WilsonAt NetQoS, Russ reports directly to the CEO and is responsible for the company’s R&D budget and interface design for all NetQoS products. He redesigned their flagship product, SuperAgent. Previously, Russ was the VP of Engineering at HyPerformix, a simulation and modeling company. Before joining HyPerformix, Russ founded a successful startup that generated over $4 million in revenue. As both CEO and CTO, he prototyped all interfaces for the company’s products and worked closely with clients to improve usability. Russ has extensive experience in interaction design, rapid prototyping, and usability and holds a BS in Computer Science and an MS in Software Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. Russ is the Austin Local Ambassador for UXnet and an Austin representative for IxD, as well as a member of ACM, IEEE, SIGCHI, UPA, ASIS&T, and AIGA.  Read More

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