Chapter 13: Interaction Design in Practice

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The main goals of the chapter are to accomplish the following:

  • Describe some of the key trends in practice related to interaction design.
  • Enable you to discuss the place of UX design in agile development projects.
  • Enable you to identify and critique interaction design patterns.
  • Explain how open source and ready-made components can support interaction design.
  • Explain how tools can support interaction design activities.


As our interviewee at the end of Chapter 1, Harry Brignull, remarked, the field of interaction design changes rapidly. He says, “A good interaction designer has skills that work like expanding foam.” In other words, the practice of interaction design is quite messy, and keeping up with new techniques and developments is a constant goal. When placed within the wider world of commerce and business, interaction designers face a range of pressures, including restricted time and limited resources, and they need to work with people in a wide range of other roles, as well as stakeholders. In addition, the principles, techniques, and approaches introduced in other chapters of this book need to be translated into practice, that is, into real situations with sets of real users, and this creates its own pressures.

Many different names may be given to a practitioner conducting interaction design activities, including interface designer, information architect, experience designer, usability engineer, and user experience designer. In this chapter, we refer to user experience designer and user experience design because these are most commonly found in industry to describe someone who performs the range of interaction design tasks such as interface design, user evaluations, information architecture design, visual design, persona development, and prototyping.

Other chapters of this book may have given the impression that designers create their designs from scratch, with little or no help from anyone except users and immediate colleagues, but in practice, user experience (UX) designers draw on a range of support. Four main areas of support that impact the job of UX designers are described in this chapter.

  • Working with software and product development teams operating an agile model of development (introduced in Chapter 2, “The Process of Interaction Design”) has led to technique and process adaptation, resulting in agileUX approaches.
  • Reusing existing designs and concepts is valuable and time-saving. Interaction design and UX design patterns provide the blueprint for successful designs, utilizing previous work and saving time by avoiding “reinventing the wheel.”
  • Reusable components—from screen widgets and source code libraries to full systems, and from motors and sensors to complete robots—can be modified and integrated to generate prototypes or full products. Design patterns embody an interaction idea, but reusable components provide implemented chunks of code or widgets.
  • There is a wide range of tools and development environments available to support designers in developing visual designs, wireframes, interface sketches, interactive prototypes, and more.

This chapter introduces each of these four areas.