Week 5: The Discovery Element of Interaction Design

The readings this week highlighted how we as interaction designers need to collect our ideas and record them in a way that leads to successful user experiences. The tools outlined in Buxton, Sketching User Experiences: The Workbook and the Sketching User Experiences book show how important it is to keep track of all of your ideas and record them in a notebook in an understandable way.  Your sketches should contain all of your ideas, and later you can peel back to create a cleaner, more purposeful design for the best ideas. After reading these pieces and Tom Igoe’s article I thought a lot about the discovery element of designing a interactive user experience.  It is relatively easy to design an interactive piece that is pleasing to look at and polished.  What is difficult is developing the element of discovery for the user and for the concept as a whole.  You need to cut back on the design to allow users to discover parts of the interaction in order to make the interaction more personal and meaningful for them.  At the same time you also want the experience to be somewhat open ended to allow for unpredictable solutions.  Creating a discovery element for the user requires scaling back on the design.  Often simpler is better.  However, stepping back and allowing your idea to have a life of its own is more challenging.  As a designer we want to control what we are designing, when in fact, good interactive pieces should lead to as much discovery for the maker as the user.  If a piece creates unexpected results and a variety of meanings for various users, then it is profound and thus successful.  The key is that we must guide the user without leading them.  We may want the user to touch one of three buttons to initiate the experience so we make the buttons brightly colored, but in order avoid leading them to press one button over the other, you make them identical in shape and color.  Overall these readings taught me the power of recording all of your ideas, prototyping often, user testing to ensure you are guiding without leading, and being open to changes in your designs.