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10 Steps to Interaction Design (IxD)

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Here you can learn more about UX laws:

3. Every design starts with the research —

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When i say research, I mean understanding the system thoroughly. How to do that? —

  • Browse: What is available on the internet about it, who is doing what or where is the market going.
  • Observe: Are you trying to improve the coffee shop experience? Then visit that cafe. Are you trying to improve buying vegetables experience, then go to Walmart, Target. You cannot know the system by sitting at your desk. Understand the existing experiences. Take notes. Types of observation methods include Fly on the wall, Shadowing, contextual inquiry, undercover agent. Find more about them in Dan Saffer’s book mentioned in the beginning.
  • Talk to people: You will gather insights which you have never expected before. The ‘aha’ moments. Keep the questions open ended. And try to keep the interview location where the interviewee is most comfortable at — where they work, live, eat etc. Keep it concise.

A few methods include Directed storytelling, Unfocus group, Role playing, Extreme user interviews, Desk/purse/briefcase tour and 100 other ways…literally! To learn which methods should be used where, check out one of my favorite books:

You can also read about the research methods in Dan Saffer’s book.

4. Analyze and Synthesize the research

This is the process of organizing and evaluating research data:

  • Immediately after the interview, review your notes.
  • Get all the insights from your notes on sticky notes.
  • By now there would be a shitload of sticky notes. Now it is time to create some meaning out of this data. Start by finding relation between two insights. For e.g. In coffee shop research, two insights might say, “I like the ambience”, “i come here work everyday because it is quiet and has a slow music. Don’t feel like leaving”.
  • Start clustering the sticky notes. Look for insights with similarities. In coffee shop research example, one cluster might be based on “coffee shop ambience”. This is how you find patterns.
  • Now generate one statement per cluster. For e.g. “People like going to XYZ coffee shop to enjoy the ambience”. This could be your clustered insight.
  • For all these “statements” (clustered insights) now it is time to convert them into a particular form of question statement— “How might we…”. For e.g. “How might we provide better ambience experience to people coming to XYZ coffee shop”. This helps us generate ideas with an open mind with lesser biases. Read more here.

Find all the methods mentioned in Dan Saffer’s book.

5. Think from others perspectives

Always think from the perspective of the customer/user/audience (or whosoever your design is for). Make this a habit. It will be helpful at every step of the process. If you are interviewing a patient, try to be in their shoes and feel their pain. Empathize with them. This is a great way to overcome our own life biases and build something FOR THEM. Apply this superpower in every aspect of your life.

Are you building your portfolio? Think what if you were a recruiter, What would you need from a portfolio? How much time would you have per portfolio? What would you be feeling? etc.

If you had an argument with fellow designer/developer, think what were they feeling in that scenario? What were you feeling (self-empathy)? What could have been their intention, your intention? What does that situation reflect about your self-image, their self-image? Next time, how could you have prevented it?

Watch this video to learn more on empathy

6. Think in systems

While paying attention to details, do remember to look at the bigger picture as well. Sometimes when we digging deeper into the details, we overlook how it affects other elements in our system. Whenever an action takes place, one way is to look back to the system structure and analyze what has changed in the system and which elements get affected by that.

You can read Meadows’ Thinking in systems or read this article that describes how to find the leverage points in the system to intervene.

Have a look at this video that explains how World Health Organisation (WHO) created even bigger problem while solving relatively smaller problem.

We also discussed how it is important to think from users perspectives. Now it is time to design for that! User conceptual models are a great way to consolidate all the ideas into a structure.

Conceptual models help us (designers) think what is necessary for the user to know about the product.

Check out the last two projects on my website to learn how to use conceptual models. My website includes various type of Systems design projects: Application systems, Feedback control systems, Dynamic systems, Automatic control systems, Product systems etc:

Tools: I use Kumu, a free tool, to design system maps. Overflow to present map screen design.

7. Rapid prototyping — Secret of Innovation

Don’t prototype, but “pretotoype”. Get your hands dirty. Start with prototyping as early as possible. Some designers even start with prototyping along with the research. You can call sticky notes on top of a blank sheet as your “website prototype” and that’s fine! Point is, the quality doesn’t matter at this stage. Because your first draft is always wrong. But it will be quick and inexpensive which will give you authentic reactions. It’s the cheapest and most efficient way to test the ideas.

In theory, Interaction design follows a double diamond process . But in reality, its pretty much an iterative process. Therefore, the secret mantra of successful products is:

Make something and learn from it, and learn something out of what you made and then remake from the learnings and so on…

Watch these paper prototype and power of prototyping lecture videos by Scott Klemmer from the free course on Prototyping.

A millions tools that you can use: Pen/Paper (recommended), Sketch, Invision, Studio, Framer (my favorite), Figma, proto.io, Adobe XD, Marvel, UXPin, Keynote

8. Usertest — Show than tell

Obvious is not always obvious. We tend to get biased towards our designs. I have seen even the good designers to make the mistake of testing the prototype once it’s “ready”, and by “ready” they mean ‘clickable’. But usually, it’s already too late to test.

Once it is on the paper, it is ready! And testing should happen throughout the design process. Create a flow — show it to the people, draw some sketches — show it to the people, create wireframes — show it to the people… At every step, take their authentic feedback. You will be learning a lot from them. “People” can be users, other designers, engineers, other stakeholders etc.

And I am a big fan of guerilla testing. It is a method of testing your product with people sitting alone in cafe’s, restaurants etc.

Check out this article explaining how to do guerilla testing:

Also, have a look at this years old video of Jakob Nielsen, where he talks about how to conduct a simple test.

9. The wonders of storytelling

I cannot tell you how important this is. Storytelling is the key to success. Whatever success means to you…

Our (users, designers, stakeholders, all humans, may be aliens too…) brains are wired to express our thoughts through this powerful tool of storytelling. This secret power extends to researchers, strategists and designers. Whether we (Interaction Designers) talk about doing research, creating the visuals, designing a prototype, making a video, or a client presentation or your own portfolio, we always…always need to tell a good story — a story that the audience can relate to, that can create a ‘conflict’ in their minds, that can make them wonder and eventually change their perspectives. I will talk more about storytelling in my next blog post.

Check out this amazing talk by David J Philip on storytelling.

And watch this Ted Talk by Filmmaker Andrew Stanton of ‘Toy Story’.

So, how do you tell story in non-fiction work life?

Read this awesome book Story Craft by Jack Hart and read on hero’s journey. Here is amazing article describing different ways of building a narrative arc:

10. Collaboration is the key

Collaboration is another form of interaction design where the interaction is between human to human.

And from my experience I have learned that talent can only take you to a certain level. But with good collaboration and communication skills, sky’s the only limit. I personally used to focus lesser on this aspect. Hence my performance was plummeting in group projects even though I was doing pretty well in the solo projects. And btw, most of the projects in any company are within teams.

In such situations, we justify the situation explaining ourselves that co-worker has shallow subject knowledge or their egoistic nature is the hinderance. That’s what many of us think. But, fortunately, it’s never anyone’s ‘mistake’ rather it’s our inability to interact and collaborate with each other that we feel unsuccessful or exhausted. Which we can learn. How?

Pay attention to what teammates are saying. Listen to them. Think from their perspective. Give importance to their opinions. Sometimes you need to sacrifice your good ideas for the greater good of the team. Time is the key, you cannot do everything on your own, at least not as fast as a collaborative team would. 1+1=11

So, if you are a designer, you need to design, not only your product, but also your methods of communication with others.

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