interaction design principles - cover

Interaction Design Principles for a Flawless User Experience

Design, Product
14 min
Jun 11, 2024

What would you do if you came across a clumsy and frustrating web page? Surely, you would close it. This is because you expect to get a responsive and user-friendly digital product design. So as 88% of users do: these are the exact statistics that show people will not return to a website or application with a poor user experience (UX) design. However, following the principles of interaction design will help you avoid such a situation.

We invite you to discover the benefits and concepts of building digital design for aesthetic purposes and smooth interaction with users.

What Is Interaction Design?

Interaction design (IxD) bridges the user and the application. It refers to building visual communication in a way that gives the easiest and fastest solutions for product usage. It encompasses all aspects of the “interaction” definition: motion, sound, appearance, etc.

The author of “Thoughts on Interaction Design“, John Kolko, identifies interaction design as the physical and emotional dialogue between a person and a product. Therefore, design becomes something more than the “application shell”. It can build relationships with users even though the communication is online.

Benefits of Interaction Design Implementation

Following the rules of interaction design increases the complexity of the design process. However, its advantages cannot be overstated.

Benefits of Interaction Design Implementation

  • Improved usability. Interaction design implies making the design understandable and user-friendly. It reveals the concept of each element in UX design from the point of view of creating it for maximum ease of use.
  • Increased user satisfaction. Users also benefit from interaction design principles. They have a chance to utilize the platform, which builds stronger connections than just a set of buttons and text flow.
  • Better brand loyalty and trust. A study reveals that 60% of customers would become repeat buyers if they received a personalized experience. IxD goes beyond just personalization and allows communication conveniently for each side of the process: users and product owners.

Interaction Design vs User Experience Design

Being interconnected, interaction design and user experience design have different scopes of work. In the hierarchy, IxD is part of the UX design realm. The latter is a comprehensive definition that covers all the aspects of design where it meets with a customer: color, tone of voice, mood, atmosphere, brand’s message, personalization, and so on.

Interaction design, in turn, focuses on setting interactions that achieve the goal set by UX designers. This methodology doesn’t go beyond the product, while user experience design is responsible for all user touchpoints and journeys.

Interaction Design Principles

The guidelines for building good interaction design are outlined in the principles, with examples below.

5 Principles of Interaction Design

Jakob Nelson’s teaching is the foundation for UI/UX designers. It outlines ten usability heuristics for user-friendly and user-centered design. These heuristics are referred to as “heuristics” because they cover a pool of topics, not only the platform’s usability side. Let’s look at five of the principles below.

5 Principles of Interaction Design

Visibility of System Status

Design is the primary source of communication. Thus, it should always inform users about the application’s current status. The sooner an appropriate message or feedback is provided, the better. It reduces stress from doing something wrong or not understanding what is happening.

Good Example

Let’s take a food delivery application. The courier tracking function displays a map where the indicator, in the form of a tick in real time, shows precisely where the order is. It guarantees the courier is on the way and forecasts how long it will take to get the order. Thus, users are calmly waiting.

Bad Example

People expect to add the attachment quickly when uploading the file. However, failing to provide a short text about how long it will take to upload the document can cause anxiety. If the error occurs after uploading, the user has to add the file again, wasting time and not knowing what is wrong.

Match Between the System and the Real World

The mission of design is to provide clear guidelines during the user journey. This principle dictates the importance of displaying UI elements in the form they exist in the real world. So even without labeling them, users can click on the right button and be right about its function. This helps them navigate the applications quicker and reduces clicking on the wrong elements.

Good Example

We all know that the trash bin is for deleting unnecessary files. The trash bin icon doesn’t carry any second meanings, and users will not confuse it with a browser shortcut or photos.

Bad Example

Let’s take the magnifying glass icon. The element can be understood for completing different actions: increasing the screen, searching, highlighting the necessary components, etc. Without labeling its proper function, the icon can be confused when users utilize it without knowing its proper function.

User Control and Freedom

Not only do people who are not tech-savvy need to redo things or back out. Advanced Internet users still click the wrong buttons and need a way to exit the window. This is what the principle explains. It will reduce the fear of doing something wrong.

Good Example

Gmail allows users to undo sending the message within a specific time after clicking the “Send” button. This creates a feeling of safety that even if you make a mistake in the message, forget to add the attachment, or just change your mind, this can be undone.

Bad Example

There are numerous examples of poor user control and freedom, especially when closing the pop-up notifications. Providing no “Exit” button or making it impossible to click without a magnifying glass creates a frustrating user experience.

Consistency and Standards

Certain user expectations are standard in many spheres. For instance, you always expect to see the check-in section at the hotel entrance. In the same way, the digital world has to obey the rules of consistency.

Good Example

Every time you see the website with the login to the user account function, be sure that one of Jakob Nielsen principles is followed. People subconsciously know the location of this feature, so even on a new platform, they can easily find it.

Bad Example

Websites with different layouts for every page do not correspond with the principles of consistency and standards. This also applies to cases where the same actions perform different functions in different places. For example, one swipe to the left means turning to the next page, and the second time, removing the product from the cart.

Error Prevention

Clear error communication is crucial; however, it is better to prevent errors from occurring. If it is in your power to eliminate misunderstandings, do it, since sometimes users unintentionally make mistakes. Clear messages with tips help to prevent errors.

Good Example

The feature of Gmail drafts auto-saving represents this principle. This helps you not lose the prepared message, whether you save the draft or not.

Bad Example

When creating a user account, it is important to fill out all the fields, especially the necessary ones. If the form doesn’t warn users that they didn’t insert all the needed information, the submission might not be processed, or the account may not be finished.

Interaction Design Principles Examples

Interaction design in UX is not limited only by Jakob Nelson’s heuristics, even though they form a basis for understanding user-centered design. There are more rules that designers can follow to create intuitive and easily operable designs.

Interaction Design Principles


Accessible design allows the platform to be used by people with disabilities. This principle dictates that interfaces must be adapted to special customers’ needs. The features include keyboard shortcuts, closed captions, screen readers, text images, and more.

An illustrative example of accessibility in interaction design is the BBC website, which people with various impairments can access. It has subtitles, keyboard navigation, text-to-speech, high-contrast mode, sign language, and other features.


Any interaction with the digital product is a dialogue. Up-to-date feedback is the principle that doesn’t leave users in free float but accompanies them throughout the entire user journey.

An example of feedback includes indicators like spinners, progress bars, progress circles, skeleton loaders, loading text, percentage indicators, and others.

Mental Model

This principle is interconnected with the consistency and standards rule of Jakob Nelson. Its concept relates to building design based on users’ mental prejudices. While every individual has their imagination, the cognitive model reflects the most common ideas about design.

For instance, the hamburger menu is always associated with the element that hides more functions inside. When seeing those three lines, users don’t confuse them with the exit or sign-up feature, as it bears the meaning of the menu element.

Importance of Interaction Design

Designers must give the utmost attention to ensuring every aspect of IxD principles is met. These steps will help teams follow the rules to create a cohesive flow for user interaction with the platform.

Importance of Interaction Design

  • Research the audience. Knowing customers’ needs is half the way to success. Creating user journeys and task flows will help you with this. The definitions relate to mapping out people’s paths and their steps to perform a specific action.
  • Test and get feedback. Not all principles outline an exact picture of the following. Design can be altered according to the target audience’s needs. That is why designers apply continuous testing to gather valuable insights from real users.
  • Be flexible. Offer your users the ability to tailor UI design to their preferences by providing customizable settings.

Advanced Interaction Design Methods

UX and interaction design are still developing and dictate new methods of meeting modern user needs. Here are some of them.

Advanced Interaction Design Methods

  • Micro-interactions. These methods are minor task-based reactions to the users’ actions: the refresh sound, the spinning wheel on the loading page, or the vibration from the new message. These elements showcase the system state, boost user engagement, prevent errors, and directly communicate with customers.
  • Animation. This visual design component increases user engagement by guiding them, confirming their actions, providing feedback, and adding a live touch to the digital program.
  • User onboarding. A simple greeting or a several-step instruction can guide users better than any advanced design features.


Interaction design is a part of user experience design that builds a dialogue between the user and the product. Its principles identify the aspects by incorporating which designers can achieve the highest level of interaction. To embed IxD rules, experienced teams research the audience and test designs, and remain flexible.

If you want to improve the existing design or build a new one following interaction design principles, consider cooperating with our experienced team of UI/UX designers.

by Ivan Klyzhenko
UX Startup Advisor, Uitop


What is interaction design?

It is the concept of designing digital products that are user-friendly, responsive, and easy to use for all categories of users.

What are the five main Jakob Nelson principles of interaction design?

They are visibility of system status, a match between style and the real world, user control and freedom, consistency and standards, and error prevention.

Why follow IxD principles?

Building interaction design can increase user satisfaction, improve the user experience, and improve brand loyalty and trust.

What are advanced interaction design methods?

Designers incorporate micro-interactions, animations, and user onboarding methods to meet contemporary users’ needs.

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