Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Interaction Design Meets Online Real Estate

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As software applications are increasingly weaved into the Web and within other Internet-aware applications, information and application controls encounter a multitude of opportunities to mesh intelligently into each other.

Photo credit: loveu4ever

Here are some examples:

In each of them, the design of the technology requires a vision for the experience that goes beyond the mere provision of a set of buttons and menus.
This new reality, driven by new technological options, shows to what a great extent information can be woven into software, in ways that could not have been imagined just a few years ago.

The user is performing at task, not just querying or scanning information.

Understanding the importance of supporting a task, an activity, an experience, is therefore fundamental to develop useful, and successful Internet applications.
This is the task and responsibility of Interaction Design, a discipline for wich we will hear a lot more about in the coming years, as it will literally shape the virtual spaces in which we are increasingly engaging to gather information or to collaborate with other people.

"Learning to program has no more to do with designing interactive software than learning to touch-type has to do with writing poetry.

The design of interactivity is scarcely taught in programming school.

What we need in software is what people are taught in film school, at least to whatever degree it can be taught. Designing for the little screen on the desktop has the most in common with designing for the Big Screen." (Laurel, 1990, p. 243)

One of the most influential representatives of Interaction Design is Nathan Shedroff, principal of Vivid Studios and one of the best interaction designers around today. He says:

"Interactivity isn't about non-linear navigation or moving animations on the screen.

It's about what people can do on the site, what they can participate in, what the site does to address their needs, interests, goals, and abilities." (quoted in Fleming, 1998, p. 66)

"Interaction design is the art of effectively creating interesting and compelling experiences for others." (Shedroff, 1999)

In 1993, Deborah Hix and H. Rex Hartson from Virginia Tech published an influential volume called Developing User Interfaces. In it, they argued that "user interface development must be an integral part of the overall software engineering process, not an add-on or afterthought" (p. vii), and the book lays out the process of how this was done at the time by successful companies such as Apple and Microsoft.

The authors call this key figure the "user interaction developer." something very close what within Web-oriented projects has been referred to as the "interaction designer". In more traditional software development, this person is responsible to develop the content, behavior, and appearance of the interaction design.

According to those authors, the emerging interaction designer is a professional responsible for providing:

  • usability, including user performance and satisfaction

  • critical design issues

  • functionality,

  • sequencing,

  • content, and

  • information access,

  • navigation design - what menus should look like

  • information design , how forms should be formatted,

  • HCI issues - whether to use a mouse or trackball,

  • identity design - and how to ensure consistency across an interface,

  • setting measurable usability specifications,

  • evaluating interaction designs with users, and

  • redesigning based on analysis of users' evaluations of an interface.

(Hartson and Hix, 1993, p. 9)

Alan Cooper, is the founding father of Interaction Design and perhaps its greatest advocate. A designer himself and chief of its own company, Mr Cooper has published some interesting books on the topic. He says:

"There is a conflict of interest in the world of software development because the people who build it are also the people who design it.

If carpenters designed houses, they would certainly be easier or more interesting to build, but not necessarily better to live in. The architect, besides being trained in the art of what works and what doesn't, is an advocate for the client, for the user. An equivalent role in the world of software has not fully developed yet, although several groups are eyeing it jealously.

Eventually, we will see a bifurcation in the industry: Designers will design the software and engineers will build it.

This is currently considered a luxury by those development shops that haven't realized the fiscal and marketing advantages that come with professional software design." (Cooper, 1995, p. 23, 2f.)

Five years ago, in an interview with UIDesign David Anderson about his view of Interaction Design, Alan Cooper stated:

"Something we learned a long time ago is that HCI Professionals tend to guess at things and Visual Designers tend to guess at things.

They say, "Well I think this looks pretty".

HCI Professionals might look at it and say, "Well people are having trouble with this interaction. So I guess we should move this over here."

David Anderson himself gave a good try at defining Interaction Design in a few words during the interview, and he came up with this great phrase:

"Good Interaction Design has a lot to do with cutting down what the human has to remember, focusing on what the Goal is, and what the human is good at versus what the machine is good at.

Let the machine do the hard stuff that it is good at."

The strategy to achieve this is through focusing more on what the end user needs and wants to do. By paying a much greater degree of attention to the user task and needs, new tools can be created that can truly complement human creative abilities and our generalized need to have technology not getting in our way when trying to accomplish something.

The realization is that by applying a goal-directed approach to the interface design process, the results that can be obtained are much more effective, and can avoid altogether the allopathic-like approach of usability engineering: why fix things later when they could be designed correctly right from the start?

And don't be fooled. Working out how to best position information, use of color, layout and positioning are all important elements of Information and Interface Design but they have nothing to do with Interaction Design.

Photo credit: Thomas Bush

Interaction Design is about the Architecture.

It's what kind of building are we building. What functions does it support. What are the shapes of the rooms and the walls and ceilings. What is the infrastructure. What kind of elevators. What kind of cooling and heating.

And that if that is Interaction Design you may want to consider building codes and rules for approved materials and tested components. Just like we do with real buildings.

Online real estate is coming and interaction designers are going to be the architects of this new space, we increasingly live and work in.

Craig Marion - [ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
2005-08-11 20:53:38

Scott Wiles

This is long overdue for the real estate sector. I'm sure implematation is still 5 years off for technology such as this.

posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, March 1 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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