Summarizing COM597: Theories and Practice of Interactivity

December 6, 2009

Design, usability and interactivity are the concepts we are so familiar with, that sometimes we just underestimate their value and importance. Summarizing our Theories and Practice of Interactivity class, I can say that my biggest take away from it was the understanding of actual importance of a design in our day to day life. If you think a little bit about it, you quickly understand that everything around us is designed by somebody: there are good designs, there are bad ones, but everything man-made has a touch of a designer in it.

Our class assignments helped me complement a theoretical knowledge acquired during the lectures with the practical understanding of basic design principles. The biggest take away from it was the terminology as well as methodology on how to translate business ideas into designers’ language: flowcharts, wireframes, etc. From my past experience, the lack of this knowledge can definitely cause some inconveniences or problems.

Looking at a pruduct from a designer’s perspective, it is easier to figure out what exactly makes a product (un)usable. One of the biggest findings was that very often a part of product’s usability is sacrificed towards its coolness and performance. IPhone is the great example: the in-depth analysis shows multiple usability problems with it. However, the Apple team had managed to find the perfect balance between cool design and actual product’s usability: e.g. on-screen keyboard that is extremely cool, but it covers a significant portion of the screen.

From the other side, online (web) design today matters as never before. the ideas and products are so easy to copy and improve, that sometimes battle of the products transforms into the battle of product designs (which is also accurate for a number of non-virtual products). Bing is the great example. My research helped me to understand, that the way search engine is designed to interact with user matters more than I could previuosly think. More intuitive interface, better usage of a space, great colors and some additional design tricks and solutions that help users solve their existing problems is what’s really important.

Talking about other in-class exercises and home assignments, I should mention that they allowed me to take a look at regular things from a completely new perspective. Thinking about how things are designed and thinking how it is possible to improve their usability was totally refreshing. No matter what is it, a desk with built-in computer or a buzz-in button not to interrupt lectures with questions, it’s just an idea that needs more further development and a designer’s touch to become a reality.

Although I don’t see myself as a designer in a future, an advanced knowledge of theories and practice of interactivity would definitely be helpful for a marketing specialist like me. Talking to designers on their language and understanding how they work may help (honestly, this also helps to shut up sometimes and let them do their work, without derailing them with your own “great” suggestions). Anyways, this was a great class, however it could have been a little bit better if we would spend more time studying more general design concepts without unnesessarily long work-shoppish design exercises during the class time.

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