Designing features for New and Intermediate Users

Unlike a static piece of design, interfaces are dynamic. They are the handle by which a person may control and interact with a complex tool. As an interaction designer it is your role to plan and design this interface between the system and the user in a manner that is effective, learnable and affords the appropriate interactions and functions to allow your user (and stakeholders) to achieve their goals.

In order to successfully achieve this you, as the designer, must be aware of the capabilities and behaviours of both your product and your user as how the user of your system expects it to behave and function rarely ever matches the way it actually functions, nor should it in most situations. Your job is to create a representation of the functions of the system that allows the user to interact with the actual implementation of the system in a way that fits their own mental model of how it should work.

a graphic showing the role of the designer regarding mental and implementation models

Your representation model is what the user will interact with. It is the interface between how they think the system works, and how it actually works, which is why it is essential you understand both your system and your user.

In order to achieve this understanding you will need to do research. Design research is vital to understanding a design context and the people within that context and it is the often the first step in any complex design process. To practice this you will be completing an interface design project over the course of the next few weeks.

For this project your team will be designing a new feature for an existing social-cycling application and so you will need to swiftly become an expert on the existing interface, analyze the interaction patterns, features and brand of the application, learn who the primary users of the interface are, and, most importantly, what are the needs and goals of these users and how you can use these goals in order to design interactions that enhance and empower their experience with your interface.

Supplementary Example:

The following clip from an episode of Top Gear serves as an example of what can happen when the builder is responsible for the controls. Notice how many steps there are to complete simple tasks, how he has to explain the functions in detail to an experienced driver before that driver has a hope of controlling it himself.

Also note Jeremy Clarkson's reactions when things don't work as he expects them too. When everything that should be happening in the back end is happening out in the open in the middle of the interface.

Lastly remember. Whenever you design without understanding your user. The face they will be making when they use your system is the face Jeremy Clarkson makes when the car sprays him with hot oil for no reason.

Move on to your assignment...