Chris McLay.

Interaction designer and user experience consultant.


We have been obsessed with learning how to get the design right
rather than how to get the right design.
– William Buxton, Who cares if you are dressed if you are alone? (6)

In setting out on this research I hoped to find suitable methodologies for designing successful interactive artefacts. As the research unfolded I found that much more was required to improve the design of interactive artefacts than the development or promotion of particular design methodologies.

Most importantly, it would appear that design needs to be accepted as a more important and integral part of the development process than it currently occupies, both in commercial and research environments. It would also appear that the act of design needs to be better understood, and its value in helping to make good decisions during the development of an artefact needs to be recognised beyond the artefact’s aesthetic attributes. Specifically in terms of research, the field of interaction design needs to be better accepted and integrated with the field of human-computer interaction, as these fields are too interrelated to sit outside each other.

Simply adding designers to the existing development process will not provide a good result either. Designers, engineers, users, marketers, business managers and other stake-holders need to work together through a design process from the very beginning of product development. Bringing in designers after development has begun severely limits the designer’s ability to question and make recommendations that require the undoing or redoing of extensive or existing investments in the process.

Designers themselves can do a lot more to improve the design of interactive artefacts. Those designers who engage themselves in holistic and thoughtful processes with both the users and the engineers of artefacts will be able to produce more successful concepts, in a shorter space of time, with fewer compromises required to meet the needs of either group. The more involved that designers are, and the broader their design research, the better informed they are to make decisions throughout each project, but also right through their design careers.

In particular, there is a strong potential for designers to significantly improve their designs through more research and involvement in understanding both the context of use and the experiences of users. The philosophy of phenomenology and the concept of embodied interaction have a great deal to offer to designers who take the time to understand and employ these ideas into their own processes.

Through this research project I have explored a number of approaches to interaction design, using a blend of theoretical and empirical methods, together with a reflection on my own design praxis. The key recommendations to come from this exploration are for the integration of designers and the act of design into the development of interactive artefacts, and for designers involved in the design of interactive artefacts to broaden their design considerations.

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