Interaction Design

Interaction design ensures that your product, whether it be a piece of desktop software, a rich website or a physical device is easy to use, appropriate for the target audience, and effective (or affective!).

It is important that the problem your system addresses be well understood, and that means understanding your domain, your users and your technical constraints. Our process ensures that we build on an accurate understanding of each of these elements to design products which genuinely serve your customers' needs.

The SurfaceEffect process…

1. Concept Definition

This is typically driven by you. We need to understand your vision for the product, which market you’re aiming for, and who you see as your potential customers.

2. User Research

This is a vital stage. At this point we talk to potential users that match your marketing target, and get a deep understanding of what they need and want from your product. In longer engagements we might also carry out small scale ethnographic studies. The key deliverable is a set of personas, who represent the various kinds of users found by the research.

It’s often here that we discover the seeds for innovative design options, by understanding not what people want to do, but rather what they want to achieve.

3. Conceptual Design

Conceptual design outlines the ways users (specifically the personas) can interact with the system. By exploring the important usage scenarios this lays down an architectural framework giving the design a coherence and structure which can’t be obtained simply by going immediately into interface design.

This should be thought of as your project’s foundations. It’s sometimes unnerving that at this stage it’s hard to imagine what the final design will be like. Just as on a building site, with only the foundations laid, it’s hard to tell what the building will ultimately look like. But it’s just as vital to the success of your project as the foundations are to the stability of a building.

4. Technical Feasibility Assessment

It’s clearly important that any design can be built. At SurfaceEffect we have the experience to be able to ensure that what we design is possible to build, while at the same time knowing when we can be more radical. Whether you have experienced, well-staffed development teams, or just one or two developers, we can adjust the design to fit not only technical constraints, but also organisational ones.

In this phase we walk through the conceptual design with the development teams to ensure that we’re not handing over an albatross.

5. Interface Design

In the final design phase of a project we get to a much more detailed level of design. We define where every widget and button should go, and what function they have. At this stage we would also aim to incorporate visual design. If you have visual designers on staff, we’re happy to work with them. We’re equally happy to provide visual design if you don’t.

6. Development Planning

Once we’ve delivered a design it’s over to the developers to build it. But often it’s useful to know which parts of a design are critical, and which parts can be left out until later on. The development team need to know which parts depend on which, so they can plan the order in which the system components are to be built. We can provide an outline plan which will explicitly state all the dependencies in the design, to help you plan your project.

7. Development-time Consulting

During development design issues can arise. To make sure that any trade-offs that are needed for practical reasons fit the rest of the design, we will be happy to consult with developers to resolve any problems they encounter.

8. Post-deployment Tune-Up

Even after you release your product, we’re still on hand to help. Users often ask for enhancements. Knowing how to respond to keep your users happy, while maintaining the integrity of the design, is vital to avoid bloated unstable software. By examining users’ requests to find the underlying issues you can enhance the effectiveness of your product from version 1 to version 100 without sacrificing elegance.

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