A reflection on Thoughtful Interaction Design

Taken on one of my trips to school on the circle line. Everyone in the cabin is seen consumed in their digital artifacts. Even those beside me as seen in the reflection.

This reading came in really timely as the points mentioned in these chapters are things that I have been reflecting about daily, as I work on building app interfaces. On the daily commute, (which I take around 1.5 hours to reach that gives me a lot of time to time and reflect) I notice an artificial world – an artificial world of people being consumed by digital artifacts. Of any moment, someone is looking into a digital device. This device would commonly be their mobile phone or your laptop like what you are doing right now.


There were many points worth highlighting in this text. But I will narrow down to one or two.

1. Good Design

Jonas touched upon the term ‘good design’. Indeed it is a very vague term. From a UX perspective, I’ve all along defined good interaction design = user intuitive. However, this sentence challenged my definition of it:

“An extremely fast and efficient digital artifact is hardly good design if it is not understood by users”

Going deeper into thoughts, I realised what we’re tackling here is user empathy. The fact of the ‘human’ in human-computer interaction, it still goes back to the user. For thoughtful design, a designer must put themselves into their user’s shoes. Exactly, it’s about being reflective. 

Example of thoughtful interaction design

Instead of cracking my head or googling for examples, I’ve realised that very apt examples are apps. They are something that we interact with everyday, in fact the first thing we interact with everyday when we wake up.

Image result for whatsapp iphone

Without saying much, everyone would recognize this popular chat platform.

WhatsApp might not be the prettiest app but majority are using this app platform. We see even the older generation commonly using whatsapp instead of other chat platforms because

  1. It fulfils the needs of its audiences – to communicate.
  2. It’s fast – just tap on name of person we want to have a convo with, type message into box, send
  3. There is order and meaning (design theory)– chats on top, I type something and send, it appears in that field of convo exchange

The designers behind the app had to think about the (very) different age groups using the app.

From the words of a WhatsApp designer himself

“When building a product, having a clear problem to solve for people is half the battle. Having a framework on how to judge the proposed solutions helps make the rest of the process more efficient.”  – Charlie Deets, Product Designer at WhatsApp.

Hence, he also highlights the importance of being reflective: taking a step back to understand the user’s problems before diving into a solution.

However, how many actually know that there is a whatsapp story feature within the app? Also, how many people actually use it? Do we really need it? How much thought was put into this feature’s usability?

No design is perfect said Jonas. Therefore, the need for the story feature could be thought about again by the designers.

2. Design theory

The author mentioned “As a designer, you might also need help in creating order and meaning in a complex world. This can be done by making the complex less complex by organizing, structuring and categorizing.”

So true, Jonas. This is what we call information architecture and it is really important in thoughtful interaction design.

Here’s a really bad example

Self-check out kiosks

Image result for self-check out ntuc

Image result for self-checkout screen singapore

Oh my goodness. These self-check out kiosks. Why so many terminals to scan? Why are there so many buttons?

Once I used it and the security alarm almost went off on me. I wasn’t supposed to lift anything off the holding bask area before I check out on my payment. However there was no indication of that. Since then I hardly used these self-help stations anymore but help myself to hurry away. If this happened to me, what more my folks? What more the senior generation? Will they even attempt to use it? 

…and more questions:

How can we make this interface more friendly? Is it possible to further categorize and better structure the information for a more seamless process?

Another thing I would like to add on about achieving interaction design is to always ask questions. Alot of questions. Again, it’s about reflecting, it’s about taking the step back to think and put empathy in it.

Hence in my opinion, good design comes about if the designer takes many steps back to think, plan and put themselves into the shoes of the user.  Many atimes we jump straight in to photoshop or the tools that we use to start designing. But here, we learnt that the steps of planning and developing is paramount. We usually overlook the paper and pen stage but this is where the problem solving happens behind a thoughtful design. Only then a designer can achieve human-centric design.

As Google’s Design team’s mantra goes “focus on the user and all else will follow”.