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A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish

In my previous post on Object Oriented UX, I discussed defining objects from your requirements to create a modular system. Now lets look at how you can take those objects in conjunction with actions to create an interaction model that maps out the overall UX architecture. Thus creating a plan to achieve the goal of a better process to deliver exceptional products and services.

An interaction model is a design model that binds an application together in a way that supports the conceptual models of its target users. It is the glue that holds an application together. It defines how all of the objects and actions that are part of an application interrelate, in ways that mirror and support real-life user interactions. It ensures that users always stay oriented and understand how to move from place to place to find information or perform tasks. It provides a common vision for an application. It enables designers, developers, and stakeholders to understand and explain how users move from objects to actions within a system.

When designing a complex system, we are defining more than its information architecture. We are defining the way users move through a system consisting of many complex elements and how they use them to perform complex transactions, then find their way back. An interaction model is much more than just a navigation model that describes how users can move from one page or section of an application to another. Of course, an interaction model must take a product’s navigation model into account. Certainly, we need to be aware of the relationships between an application’s pages. But an interaction model supports users’ establishing their conceptual approach to reaching their objectives—employing affordances that support real-life tasks—as well as following the structure of its information or pages.

An interaction model might describe how users navigate to a page, perhaps how they select an object of interest on the page—for example, a book, a passenger, or an expense—how they perform an action on that object—purchasing it, booking an itinerary for it, or adding it up. An interaction model also uses design patterns that describe the model. Our brains are wired to recognize patterns. An interaction model is a discernible pattern that supports the way users think about and approach real-life activities, which also reveals sub-patterns in easily discernible ways.

We start to define the interaction model through user observation to understand how users conceptualize their goals, how they think about objects supporting their goals, and the actions they preform using those objects in order to achieve their goals. For example, each type of airline agent may have a different primary object for which they need to solve a problem. Reservation agents taking calls to book a new flight or change an exiting flight are focused on a customer. They need to solve problems for customers—such as booking a flight or changing a profile.

Gate agents at the airport have a different goal of closing a flight thus a different primary object they focus on. Their supervisors measure their performance based on their ability to close flights, or get their flights away from the gate on time. Gate agents have several activities going on at the same time—they need to make sure the passengers all have seats, award some upgrades, accommodate those on a waiting list either on the current or a later flight, and so on, but all of these activities are in service of closing a flight.

The primary object for the reservation agent is the customer, but the primary object for the gate agent is the flight. The primary object for a baggage handler or lost baggage agent is a piece of luggage. The interaction model needed for these different users puts the object of their primary focus front and center for them. Giving agents a summary of key information about each object, permitting them to preform actions against their primary objects.

Once the object-action relationship for each user is understood we look at how to structure the overall product to permit these object-action relationships to take place in the most efficient, delightful way. From this process the team will explore options and produce screens for each user scenario that was identified, looking at how well the model holds together especially for the most complex scenarios. This will also help us see how scalable the model is and allow for us to make adjustments to ensure its future scalability.

Doing this kind of design exploration is as critical a process in getting a product right. Coming up with a model for a complex product often takes several iterations and vigorous design debate about the pros and cons of each model.

Once the model is defined, a framework can be crafted that supports additional designs. A framework defines reusable design patterns and instantiates them into reusable design and development components that subsequently enable designers and developers to rapidly produce additional parts of the design. When the model is defined, next craft wireframes, and confirm through usability testing that the model in fact meets the goals set forth for the product.

OOUX and Interaction models are all part of digital product and service development. It can be time consuming to ideate, conceptualize and test a product idea. All the while still having your day-to-day deliverables and responsibilities. Partnering with an agency can help speed up the process and get you the results you need to prove the validity of the concept or product enhancements. Macquarium offers a Product Concepting and Prototyping service that can get you to development faster with an interaction model that will enable your team to build upon the initial product with ease. Stop wishing you could move your ideas forward and start concepting and prototyping your way to success.