A good design isn’t just about how something looks and feels - it’s about how it functions. Particularly for eCommerce companies, properly designed interfaces will function in ways that guide your customers to do exactly what you want.
Conversely, poorly designed interface elements allow for distractions or even mistrust. A user experience study conducted by the Missouri University found that first-time website visitors will interact with an interface and within just a few seconds determine if the source is trustworthy. If it is, they’ll stick around, browse, and maybe even make a purchase.
Consequently, it’s critical for eCommerce brands to create interfaces that are simple to understand, communicate information, and guide user interaction to desired outcomes.
In order to do this, visual designers and UX designers need to understand how people receive and process visual information. This is called interaction design.
A Brief Intro to Interaction Design
In more simple terms, interaction design is quite literally the design of the interaction between users and products. These “products” generally tend to be software-based, such as websites and apps. Interaction design’s intent is to guide people to reach a certain outcome, such as purchasing an item off a website.
Interaction design can involve a wide variety of elements, from graphics, to motions, to sounds, to precisely how an action is performed. This is because the interaction between a user and a product can vary greatly.
The most frequently-cited explanation of interaction design is the 5 Dimensions of Interaction Design - a model that outlines what makes up a quality interaction design.
These dimensions include:
- Words - simple, concise words that help direct users (ex. “add to cart” label on a button)
- Visual Representations - graphic elements like typography, images, icons, and more; are all elements a reasonable size regardless of device, etc.
- Physical Objects or Space - how is the user accessing the product (ex. via computer or tablet, mouse or trackpad, etc.)
- Time - motion and sound that provide feedback to a user (ex. progress sounds, videos, animation, etc.)
- Behavior - how users interact and react with a product, such as how a user moves through your website (ex. swipe right)
Each of these dimensions must come together and be considered throughout interaction design.
Going Beyond the Basics
While the 5 Dimensions of Interaction Design will get you started, there’s a lot of data science, user research, and information about human/computer interaction that can help inform your design, and ultimately guide your customers to desired outcomes.
Signal Detection Theory
Taking it a bit further, signal detection theory states that our senses (sound, touch, and vision) are constantly exposed to noise. In order for us to detect things through the noise, there needs to be some kind of stimulus. Good interaction design will find a way to create stimuli for these senses, cutting through noise and distraction to guide customers.
Signal detection theory also states that the user has the opportunity to respond to their senses in four ways:
- A correct response - there is noise, and your sense react
- A missed response - there is noise, but your senses don’t react
- A false alarm - no noise, but your senses respond anyway
- A correct rejection - no noise, and your senses do not respond
Interaction designers need to create interfaces that result in scenarios 1 and 4. If scenarios 2 and 3 occur, then there are problems in your interface.
An easy way to analyze this is by assuming that all elements on your site qualify as “noise.” This could include anything from star ratings, buttons, etc. Your user needs stimulus in order to cut through the noise and respond to certain elements on your site.
Creating A Stimulus
One example of a visual stimulus is color. Certain colors attract a user’s attention to specific sections or elements. If this is intentional, then your interface is correctly designed. If not, then it’s adding to the distraction and unnecessary noise.
Typically elements that have a high contrast (which can be controlled via size, placement, and color) will catch a user’s attention first. Additionally, the color selection itself can have an impact. Our eyes are most sensitive to yellowness and greenness (the middle portion of the visible light spectrum) more so than redness-yellowness (left side of the visible light spectrum) and blueness-redness (right side of the visible light spectrum).
Putting It All Together
To evaluate your site for potential distractions, layout the user’s primary task on the specific page you are evaluating. For example, a primary task could be clicking the “Add To Cart” button on the product page.
Then, asses how easy it is for the user to do this, remembering that all other elements on the page are considered noise:
- Can the customer see the button? Does the color and contrast stand out?
- Is it clearly labeled and easy to read?
- Is it easy to click regardless of device or tool (i.e. mouse vs. trackpad)? Is it the right size to interact?
- Is there visual feedback provided to the customer once the product is added to the cart?
- Is the button located centrally, or in another location where it makes the most sense?
- Are there other elements on the page that could distract the user from clicking the “Add To Cart” button?
Once you’ve determined if your interaction design is created in a way that will ultimately guide your customer to the desired outcome, and ensured that there isn’t elemental noise which will derail the interaction, then you know you’ve developed the appropriate layout.
Not sure if your site fully incorporates interaction design? Reach out to the team at Object Edge. Our award-winning agency delivers innovative solutions uniquely suited to your needs.