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Fundamentals of interaction design

From websites and phones to video games, ATM machines and drinks dispensers, interactive products are very much part of everyday life. But how many are easy, satisfying and enjoyable to use? Fundamentals of interaction design studies the factors, techniques, tools and theories that affect the design of such products. It will teach you a variety of topics, from computing, psychology and graphic design to entertainment, informatics and usability. You’ll learn about the theory underlying interaction design, and acquire practical skills that will equip you to analyse, design, and evaluate the interactive products you use every day.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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What you will study

This module will help you to answer the following kinds of question:

  • Why are some websites easier to use than others?
  • Why do people have difficulty using some software packages and not others?
  • How can paper prototypes help improve the design of mobile phones?
  • How can I assess the usability of a video game?
  • As a user, how can I get involved in the re-design of a new information system at work?
  • How and why should I find out more about the users of a software system I’m building?
  • What problems might people with disabilities face when using a software application and how can designs be improved to avoid these problems?
  • What issues should you consider if you wish to design a website to appeal to people from a different country?

The module is based on the book Interaction Design. To help you explore, understand and deepen your understanding of the topics in this set book, the module includes additional materials such as further activities and extra teaching text, for example on accessibility and internationalisation. It is structured into four blocks.

The first block provides a broad overview of interaction design, introducing the key issues and activities of the subject, for example, the terminology and fundamental concepts of the area; the main activities involved in interaction design; and the importance of user involvement in the design process. The issues and activities introduced in Block 1 are developed in the remainder of the module. In particular, the three main activities of interaction design are covered in Blocks 2, 3 and 4.

Block 2 addresses a key activity in interaction design: that of establishing requirements for an interactive product, i.e. what it should do, who will use it, how it will be used, where it will be used and so on. Some of this material may be familiar to you if you have studied any software development modules in the past, but we approach the subject with a different perspective: focusing on making the product usable for the intended population.

The next block covers the techniques and knowledge necessary to design an interactive product that is accessible and useful to the people who are expected to use it. This includes an understanding of interaction types and interface types, metaphors, conceptual models, cognitive processes (involving memory, attention, learning, etc.), and the use of design approaches for a variety of interactive products such as mobile phones and websites.

Block 4 presents the techniques and knowledge necessary to evaluate an interactive product. This includes an ethical framework for evaluating with users, techniques and tips for observing users, asking experts and users, and testing with users.

If you are considering progressing to The computing and IT project (TM470), this is one of the OU level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these OU level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day-schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015 when it will be available for the last time. A new module in a similar subject area is planned from October 2016.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills acquired from previous modules at levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject. 

To study this module you will ideally be a competent user of computer technology with an interest in people and good design. My digital life (TU100) or the discontinued module MT264 would be ideal preparation, as this level 3 module will extend the coverage of HCI (human-computer interaction) and GUI (graphical user interface) development offered by these modules. However, note that the module does not assume any previous knowledge specific to these modules.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You may find it useful to visit the website that supports Interaction Design, as preparation for the module, and to give you a good idea of the kind of topics covered in M364 (but remember that we provide additional materials too). You will find a variety of resources such as articles, links to other websites and interactive games that you might find interesting. Please note, however, that no preparation is required to study M364.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £1350.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

October 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 05/08/2015.

What's included

The text book Interaction Design (2nd Edition) by Preece, Rogers and Sharp; module books containing the extension materials; other assessment and support materials; DVD; online forums and a website.

You will need

DVD player, colour TV.

You require internet access at least once a week during the module to download module resources and assignments, submit assignments and keep up to date with module news. In addition, the module assessment will require you to develop paper-based prototypes. You will be required to submit these in an electronic form, so you will need access to a local facility for digitising documents, e.g. a digital camera, a scanner, or a local outlet that will transfer ordinary photographs to a disk.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

This module requires students to undertake a range of practical activities including observation, interviewing, critique of design elements and sketching. If you are unable to perform any of these activities without assistance, it may still be possible for you to complete and pass the module. We will provide descriptions of visual module elements where possible which might assist you, but nevertheless you may find it difficult to complete some activities.

Although we are able to provide a PDF of the bought-in book, Interaction Design, for students who need it, we do not have accessible files to offer to students. The book is heavily diagrammatic and uses boxes of text which create problems when using the PDF with a screen reader. You are strongly advised to discuss this with an adviser before applying for the module.  

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.