Interaction design and the user experience
From apps, phones and business systems to wearables, the web and the Internet of Things, interactive products are the stuff of everyday life. But how can interactions be designed to best meet their purposes, offer good user experiences (UX), and be easy, satisfying and enjoyable to use? How can interactions be evaluated effectively when their users, purposes and contexts of use vary so widely? In this module we take a user-centred approach through which you’ll learn about the factors, techniques, tools and theories that affect interaction design and acquire practical skills that will equip you to analyse, design, and evaluate the interactive products of everyday life.
What you will study
Why are some interactive products so popular? How do you create products that everybody wants? One of the fundamental things you will learn in this module is the importance of user-centred design.
You will learn the value of moving away from your desk and ‘stepping out into the world’ to involve potential users in your early design ideas for interactive products. It is all too easy to assume that other people think, feel and behave in the same way as we, the designer or developer, do. It is essential to take into account the diversity among users and their different perspectives and getting their feedback will help you to avoid any errors and misunderstandings that you may not have thought of. Involving users in the process is vital to creating great products and makes good business sense: after all, who wants to buy a bad product?
Through hands-on activities you will work through the design process on a topic chosen by you (with our guidance). You will develop skills that will be important to you in a variety of employment settings – whether working as a developer as part of a large software development team, as a partner in a small start-up, or in some other role involved in the managing of, or decision making around interactive products that will be used by people.
The module is organised in four blocks and uses the international best-selling book Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction as a reference text:
Block 1 – Introduction and overview
What is interaction design? This block gets across the fundamental idea of what we mean by interaction design and the importance of it being user centred. You will begin to reflect on what makes some designs usable and satisfying – and others not – and get hands-on experience of the process of designing. An important principle of our approach to interaction design is that there is diversity among users – not only in terms of their physical characteristics and capabilities, but also of their cognitive and sensory characteristics.
Block 2 – Requirements
Who are the users and what do they want? As part of the process of defining the requirements for an interactive product we need to know the user’s characteristics but also need to be aware of the user’s context – both in terms of their physical environment and in terms of the activity they are engaged in. This block studies a range of requirement gathering approaches including talking to users, observational methods including the use of technology probes, and more. You will also learn to use tools and techniques such as developing personas and scenarios, which will help you share information with the stakeholders (the team, the users, the customer) and communicate effectively about the requirements for an interactive product.
Block 3 – Design
Designing is about balancing the requirements. It involves thinking through the underlying idea for the interactive product and also the more concrete, physical aspects. This block tackles all these things. You will learn to use reflective tools to help you work out and communicate the main idea for a design, including what people will be able to do with it, and how they experience it. We discuss a range of interface types, from more traditional screen-based forms of interaction to mobile, wearable, haptic and other interface types and you will learn and use a range of prototyping methods and tools.
Block 4 – Evaluation
Block 4 presents the techniques and knowledge necessary to evaluate an interactive product. This includes the ethical considerations when evaluating with users; techniques and tips for observing users; asking experts and users; and considering when to carry out field studies and when to use lab studies. You will learn how to present your findings and to reflect on the need for iteration of parts of the design life cycle.
The assessment for this module is structured so that you can work on a problem chosen by you, and work through the various processes and iterate through the design life cycle studied in the block as you progress in the module.
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.
This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies courses 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.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.
Preece, J., Sharp, J. and Rogers, Y. (2015) Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction (584 pages) and Block booklets 1–4. Module website and online study materials.
You will need
You will need some materials such as wood blocks, cardboard, fabrics and vegetables, and possibly some ordinary household items (coats, gloves and kitchen utensils for example).
A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.
Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.
A desktop or laptop computer with either:
- Windows 7 or higher
- macOS 10.7 or higher
The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.
To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones.
Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.