What Is Interaction Design? (With How To Become a Designer)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing products or programmes requires research and careful planning. It's also important to have a good understanding of human behaviour and how users interact with products. By thinking about these factors, companies may be more successful in creating products that users enjoy and meet their needs. In this article, we define interaction design, compare it to user experience design, explain what an interaction designer is, outline how to become an interaction designer and discuss the skills, salary and work environment of someone in the role.

What is interaction design?

Interaction is a core component of user experience (UX) design. It relates to the effective or logical design or interactions between users and products. While it may apply to all types of products, it most often matters for software products, such as applications and websites. The goal of interaction design is to ensure the best possible products that enable users to achieve their objectives. The process involves designers creating interfaces that consider logical, thought-out actions and behaviours. This requires merging technology and communication principles to create positive user experiences.

Related: What Is a UX Designer? (A Complete Guide With Salary Data)

5 dimensions of interaction design

The five dimensions of interaction are a model that represents what interaction design involves. These five dimensions are:

1. Words

The word dimension includes anything written in a design, such as button labels. It's important for all words to be meaningful and easy to understand. The words need to be able to communicate information to the user without overwhelming them.

2. Visual representations

The visual representations, or images, dimension includes all graphic elements. This may include the icons, images and typography that users interact with in a design. These elements often supplement the design's words to best communicate the information to users.

3. Physical objects or space

The physical objects or space dimension refers to the items a user physically interacts with when using a product. This involves considering the situations a user may be in when they're using the product. For example, this may mean considering if a user will be standing on crowded public transportation when checking the application on a smartphone or if they will be sitting in an office chair while browsing the website on a computer.

4. Time

The time dimension relates to media that may change over time, such as animation, sounds or videos. It's important for designers to consider how motion or sound affects a user's interaction. This may include how long a user interacts with a product, if they're able to resume their interaction later or if they're able to track their progress with using the product.

5. Behaviour

The behaviour dimension considers how users interact with the product. This may include how they perform certain actions on an application or website or how they operate an entire product. Similarly, this may include user reactions, feedback or emotional responses from the user based on interacting with the product.

What's the difference between interaction design and UX design?

Interaction design is a component of UX design. UX design focuses on shaping the user's entire experience of using a product. However, it's often much more involved than interaction design. It may include:

  • Performing user research

  • Developing user personas

  • Conducting user testing

  • Completing usability testing

What is an interaction designer?

An interaction designer oversees creating a design strategy based on key user interactions with products. They may also be responsible for developing prototypes to best test concepts. It's important for them to keep current with technology and trends to understand how changes may affect users.

Organisations may hire them to ensure their products function properly when users interact with them. However, the size of the organisation may determine if they hire interaction designers. Smaller organisations may hire user experience designers to complete interaction design, but larger organisations may separate the roles. While exact responsibilities may vary based on the organisation, primary components of an interaction designer's work are:

Design strategy

Design strategy involves determining what a user's goals are and what interactions they will need to complete so they can achieve their goals. This may involve conducting user research to learn more about user goals. Based on what they learn, interaction designers are responsible for developing strategies that translate into interactions.

Wireframes and prototypes

Interaction designers may be responsible for creating wireframes. These wireframes outline the interactions users must have with products in order to achieve their goals. Interaction designers may also be responsible for creating prototypes that represent what an application or website may look like as a final product.

How to become an interaction designer

Here are the steps to follow if you're interested in how to become an interaction designer:

1. Earn a degree

Pursue a certificate or degree that allows you to develop the fundamental knowledge and skills an interaction designer needs. Many employers seek candidates who have bachelor's degrees in areas like interaction design, interaction media design, graphic design or advertising. Earning these degrees may require completing technical courses related to interaction, graphic and website design. While it's not required, you may also consider earning a graduate degree in a speciality like interactive or website design.

2. Build a portfolio

Create a portfolio that demonstrates your skill set and previous work to potential employers. Depending on your experience, your portfolio may include projects you completed during university, internships or entry-level positions. It's important to review your portfolio before applying to any positions to ensure it includes the type of projects the company completes.

3. Prepare a CV

Before applying for jobs, it's also important for you to create a CV. This document outlines your educational background, work experience, skills and achievements to demonstrate to hiring managers why you're a good candidate for a job. Review your CV before each job you apply for to customise it based on the requirements outlined in the job posting. This can help best represent why you would succeed in the job.

Read more: How To Write a CV (With Template and Example)

4. Apply for jobs

Upon preparing your CV and portfolio, begin to search for jobs that interest you. Consider leveraging your network to learn about new opportunities or explore online job boards to find positions. As you begin your career, think about applying for jobs within different industries until you find one you'd like to specialise in for the rest of your career. Also, it's important to remember some companies may consider interaction design part of the job of a user experience designer, so vary the job titles you look for in your search.

Interaction designer skills

Here are some important skills for interaction designers to develop:

Technical skills

Technical skills are the specific skills related to working as an interaction designer. It's important for these professionals to be comfortable working with computers and using a variety of software. They should have experience working with:

  • Animation software

  • CSS

  • Flash

  • HTML

  • Photo editing software

Read more: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

Creativity

Creativity is important for interaction designers to create attractive, logical interfaces. This may require an understanding of design principles for both print and digital products. Similarly, interaction designers may use creative thinking skills to develop unique solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration

Collaboration skills allow interaction designers to work well with other professionals. Their work often requires them to collaborate with marketing professionals, developers, programmers and other designers. It's essential that they're able to share their ideas, listen to feedback and work towards a common goal.

Related: Teamwork Skills: Definitions and Examples

Interaction designer salary

Indeed Salaries doesn't have salary information for interaction designers specifically. However, it does have salary information for related careers. For example, the average salary for a user interface designer is $19,598 per month and the average salary for a user experience designer is $18,716 per month. It's also important to remember exact salaries may vary depending on factors like experience, geographic location and qualifications.

Interaction designer work environment

Interaction designers generally work in offices, and they may work for a variety of companies that develop products, websites or applications. They typically have a standard workweek with normal business hours. However, they may work longer hours when working on large projects or to meet deadlines.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles