What is Interaction Design?

Good Interaction Design happens when we thoughtfully develop systems to provide information, help people accomplish tasks, and build efficient methods for doing academic business. Good interaction design creates a highly strategic dialogue between your administrative office and your external and internal audience.

Today a very narrow understanding of interaction design tends to dominate academic administrative thinking. When people hear the word "interaction" they immediately think of the Web. But the Web is only one type of interaction your users will have with your office.

Types of Interaction

  • ´╗┐Front desk
  • One-on-one with advisors
  • Telephone calls
  • Email correspondence
  • Informal conversations
  • Web site
  • Printed brochures
  • Flyers
  • Forms
  • Fax
  • Surveys
  • Programs
  • E-newsletters
  • Twitter
  • Listserv
  • Facebook
  • Training sessions
  • Receptions
  • Handouts
  • Conferences
  • Bookmarks

The role of an Interaction Designer

A good Interaction Designer will take the time to understand your office goals (and why they are important) and then develop systems for achieving those goals. These systems might be technical or non-technical, paper-based or Web-based, linear or random... whatever is determined to be the best solution for achieving a particular goal.

I sometimes say that I specialize in developing interaction equations:

Brochure + Listserv + Email invite + Online Form = Awesome Reception

What about the Web?

Today, the Web is often the most important tool for any interaction design. Built correctly, your Web site can take the shape of nearly any type of encounter users have with your office. A good Web site can streamline complex processes, reduce costs, and make most systems more efficient:

Brochure + Web site = Awesome Reception

A good Web site will:

  • allow your users to navigate to the services they really need
  • help your users accomplish important tasks
  • improve the work flow in your office
  • inform the future direction and growth of your office!

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Interaction Metaphor

Technical lingo often turns people off. For this reason, I like to use metaphors with my clients.


Think of your administrative office as the perfect dairy farm.


Your audience:
The cows on the farm.


Your goal:
Milk the cows.


Important systems:
Branding, feeding, sleeping...


How to move
the cows:

Gates, corrals, pastures...


Good interaction design
will help you:

  • Identify your audience
  • Determine your office goals
  • Consolidate and refine your administrative systems
  • Build a useful Web site
  • Achieve your goals!