“Interaction design, often abbreviated as IxD, is “the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services.” -Wiki
I am currently studying Interaction Technology & Design with a master in Engineering at Umeå University. I will try to explain shortly what an Interaction-designer/engineer is all about.
The usability of a product might not be as easy to determine as one might think, when a product is created it is easy to form an biased opinion of the product. It is hard to see the product from another persons point of view. One of the main purposes of an interaction designer is to see past the silver coating whilst working towards the masses. Majority is therefore a keyword for interaction designers, we are taught how to satisfy the demands of the majority of users rather than the individual.
“People should never feel like a failure when using technology. Like the customer, the user is always right. If software crashes, it is the software designer’s fault. if someone can’t find something on a web site, it is the web designer’s fault… The big difference between good and bad designers is how they handle people struggling with their design. Technology serves humans. Humans do not serve technology.” -Joshua Porter
It’s not their fault, it never was and never will be. If a design is too hard to grasp for the user, you have not been able to design the product from their angle.
An example from the world of video-games, older games did not need any explanations. You put the cartridge in the game slot and started it up, you managed to find out the if you pressed a specific key you jumped. The next you fired your rifle. When you came to a wall which seemed impossible to jump, you tried to press jump twice and the character ran up the wall. Compare this to the games today, where every piece of interaction has instructions. “PRESS X TO JUMP OVER BOX”, “PRESS O TO CLIMB WALL”. There is nothing left for the user to figure out. Is this because the game would be too hard for the user without these hints, or is it that the game developers have lost the ability to create an interactive environment which doesn’t require constant instructions?
The same applies for webpages, applications and other products. Imagine a web-page that needed a person standing behind you and dropped hints kind of like the clip from Word 1997. We have a responsibility to create products that do not need any instructions, that work seamlessly and does not require an instruction manual.
Therefore I am, a future Interaction Designer
“You’d be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever.”
― Ernest Cline