The 5 dimensions of interaction design


The 5 dimensions of interaction design(1) is a useful model to understand what interaction design involves. Gillian Crampton Smith, an interaction design academic, first introduced the concept of four dimensions of an interaction design language, to which Kevin Silver, senior interaction designer at IDEXX Laboratories, added the fifth.

1D: Words

Words-especially those used in interactions, like button labels-should be meaningful and simple to understand. They should communicate information to users, but not too much information to overwhelm the user.

2D: Visual representations

This concerns graphical elements like images, typography and icons that users interact with. These usually supplement the words used to communicate information to users.

3D: Physical objects or space

Through what physical objects do users interact with the product? A laptop, with a mouse or touchpad? Or a smartphone, with the user's fingers? And within what kind of physical space does the user do so? For instance, is the user standing in a crowded train while using the app on a smartphone, or sitting on a desk in the office surfing the website? These all affect the interaction between the user and the product.

4D: Time

While this dimension sounds a little abstract, it mostly refers to media that changes with time (animation, videos, sounds). Motion and sounds play a crucial role in giving visual and audio feedback to users' interactions. Also of concern is the amount of time a user spends interacting with the product: can users track their progress, or resume their interaction some time later?

5D: Behaviour

This includes the mechanism of a product: how do users perform actions on the website? How do users operate the product? In other words, it's how the previous dimensions define the interactions of a product. It also includes the reactions-for instance emotional responses or feedback-of users and the product.