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An introduction to interaction design
An introduction to interaction design

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4 Interaction design activities and methods

As a result of the increasing variety and complexity of interactions, and in order to address the kind of questions discussed in Section 3, designers need to employ an ever-expanding range of methods throughout the interaction design process. In this short course, we briefly introduce these methods and, using a few examples, we show you how they are used in establishing requirements, producing alternative designs, prototyping some of the designs and evaluating the prototypes.

In the video below, Sarah Wiseman discusses the design of the telephone interface. The video traces the history of phone dials and keypads, and how in the 1950s researchers used a variety of methods to select the configuration of keypad numbers still used today.

Activity 6 Why are keypads the way they are?

Timing: 1 hour

Watch ‘Phone buttons’ below and then answer the following questions:

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Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
  • a.How did researchers test which keypad configuration was best and what did they pay attention to?
  • b.How did researchers determine how long a phone cord should be and why did they set out to do that?
  • c.What were the two aspects researchers were focusing on when testing for different number arrangements? Which of the usability goals we discussed in Section 2 would you say best describes those two aspects?
  • d.Besides usability goals, did they focus on any user experience goals for the layout? If so, which one(s)?


  • a.In one experiment, they tried out different layouts and tested people on how fast they were on each layout, how many errors they made and also asked which one they preferred.

    In a different experiment, people were given pieces of paper with layouts of empty places and were asked to fill in where each number should go. This showed that 55% of people felt it was most natural to go 1 2 3 on the top horizontal line.

  • b.The researchers gradually cut shorter the cables of the phones of their colleagues until the colleagues started complaining. Then they knew they had found the minimum length. They needed to know this because copper is an expensive metal and was part of the cable.
  • c.Researchers were looking at how fast people could enter numbers in the different arrangements, and how many errors they were making. The first aspect corresponds to the usability goal of efficiency, which is about how quickly a user can complete a task; the second aspect corresponds to the goal of safety, which is about preventing users from making errors.
  • d.Yes, they also wanted to know which layouts people preferred. This can be described as a user experience goal focusing on qualities such as ‘what is the most natural’, or the ‘most intuitive’ layout.