For a while now, when people ask me about being an interaction designer, I have explained it as designing for behavior: what, how, and why someone interacts with a product, service, or organization. As an interaction designer, I tread in the land of emotion, motivation, action, need, and desire. Like design itself, there need not be a limit to which this approach may be applied. However, not everyone sees interaction design in this way.
While I did not go to this year’s IxDA conference, I was glad to hear the dialogue about what is interaction design kicked up again by Robert Fabricant’s keynote, wherein he stated interaction design is not about computing technology, it’s about behavior. Given my perspective on interaction design, this is not a surprise to me. What is surprising is people feeling that this is wrong.
What’s even more surprising is that what Robert said is nothing new or shocking. In Designing for Interaction, arguably the most accessible book on interaction design, Dan Saffer says, in the very first chapter, “interaction desing is about behavior.” And that was way back in 2006!
Notwithstanding, there are areas of focus for interaction design, and there is overlap with other design disciplines. But I totally agree with Dan and Robert, interaction is about behavior. And it has nothing inherently to do with making wireframes, interfaces, websites, or computing technology. Why this is new or shocking, I don’t know. But if the assertion miffs enough people in the community to cause a stir, then we need to have a talk and sort it out. Because believing interaction design is about computing technology is not healthy for the future of interaction design.