Interaction Design (IxD) Symposium

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

Reviewed by Russell Wilson

Published: April 14, 2006

“Each presenter gave practical advice based on real projects.”

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.

“Dave Heller began by describing the difference between interaction design (IxD) and interface design as structure versus presentation.”

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
“The key point is to focus on goals rather than tasks, because ultimately, users perform tasks to achieve certain goals.”

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.
“Good visual design can have a huge impact.”

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

1 Comment

Good stuff. I’d like to point out that there is an interface design group on Facebook that focuses on good and bad examples of interaction design.

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