Chapter 2: The Process of Interaction Design

Chapter Introduction | Web Resources | In-Depth Activity Comments | Teaching Materials


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

  • Reflect on what interaction design involves.
  • Explain some of the advantages of involving users in development.
  • Explain the main principles of a user-centered approach.
  • PIntroduce the four basic activities of interaction design and how they are related in a simple lifecycle model.
  • Ask some important questions about the interaction design process and provide the answers.
  • Consider how interaction design activities can be integrated into other development lifecycles.


Imagine that you have been asked to design a cloud-based service to enable people to share and curate their photos, movies, music, chats, documents, and so on, in an efficient, safe, and enjoyable way. What would you do? How would you start? Would you begin by sketching how the interface might look, work out how the system architecture should be structured, or just start coding? Or, would you start by asking users about their current experiences with sharing files and examine the existing tools, for example, Dropbox and Google Drive, and based on this begin thinking about how you were going to design the new service? What would you do next? This chapter discusses the process of interaction design, that is, how to design an interactive product.

There are many fields of design, such as graphic design, architectural design, industrial design, and software design. Although each discipline has its own approach to design, there are commonalities. The Design Council of the United Kingdom captures these in the double diamond of design, as shown in Figure 2.1. This approach has four phases which are iterated:

  • Discover: Designers try to gather insights about the problem.
  • Define: Designers develop a clear brief that frames the design challenge.
  • Develop: Solutions or concepts are created, prototyped, tested, and iterated.
  • Deliver: The resulting project is finalized, produced, and launched.

Interaction design also follows these phases, and it is underpinned by the philosophy of user-centered design, that is, involving users throughout development. Traditionally, interaction designers begin by doing user research and then sketching their ideas. But who are the users to be researched, and how can they be involved in development? Will they know what they want or need if we just ask them? From where do interaction designers get their ideas, and how do they generate designs?

In this chapter, we raise and answer these kinds of questions, discuss user-centered design, and explore the four basic activities of the interaction design process. We also introduce a lifecycle model of interaction design that captures these activities and the relationships among them.