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Interaction Design

Sherry Saunders GRDS 763 Digital II Professor Patrick Hogan Winter 2011

THE PROJECT: Interaction is a key concept in design. By understanding how someone will interact with a designed object or interface, designers can create more effective experiences for their users. In this project, students were required to create a physical cube. This cube must best communicate one of the following physical interactions: rub it, turn it, or squeeze it. The purpose of the assignment is to challenge our preconceived notions of how people interact with objects or interfaces. How each student addressed his or her cube was very open ended. One of the only requirements was that the cube could not be bigger than six inches. Also, the shape had to remain cube-like, but this could be interpreted in a variety of ways. Other shapes could be part of the design, as long as they played a secondary role. When thinking about the cubes, students had to consider four goals. First, the cube should entice the user to initiate, which means that it has to be interesting enough that they approach it and pick it up. Second, the cube should entice the designed interaction, for instance if the goal was to have the user squeeze the cube, they should be enticed by the design to squeeze the cube. Third, the cube should provide some type of satisfying feedback to users. For instace, if the cube is squeezed and it squeaks, this is a type of feedback. Last, the cube should give a sense of overall completion. The experience can feel unfinished if the user does not feel that the interaction is complete. The overall experience could be considered either satisfying or rich. Satisfying might mean that they received feedback when they squeezed the cube, but rich pertains more to the level of completion. For example, if they could not put it down and kept squeezing it for a long time, this experience could be described as rich. The last step of the project is user testing. Once the cubes have been designed, they have to be tested by users. This lets the designer know whether or not their assumptions about their design were correct. Each user is documented on video and they are also asked to fill out a survey.

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PROCESS SKETCHES/NOTES:

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“The world is permeated with small examples of good design, with the amazing details that make important differences in our lives. Each detail was added by some person, a designer, carefully thinking through the uses of the device, the ways that people abuse things, the kinds of errors that can get made, and the functions that people wish to have performed.” —Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

THE CUBES AND THE HYPOTHESIS: After given this assignment, I explored many possible cube concepts. After ideating, sketching and critiquing these ideas, I narrowed them down to three final concepts to develop. My first cube was a bit ambitious because although it was very simple, I thought the user may be inclined to rub, squeeze and turn it. The cube was two inches in size, and I sewed it out of three types of fabric. Each had a different texture, and I thought this would entice the user to rub the cube. The cube had beads inside it, making it very similar to a hacky sack. This would make it enticing to squeeze. The beads were scented of lavender, and my initial prediction was that the user would smell the cube and turn it as they tried to identify the scent. I hoped this additional surprise would add to the overall completion of the experience.

HACKY SACK CUBE

What I found after showing this to my classmates was that many of them did not recognize the smell. Many of their cubes were heavily scented by various finishing materials such as paint and wood stain. After this initial test, I changed my prediction because I did not believe anyone would recognize the subtle smell of lavender during the user test. However, the familiar form of the ‘hacky sack’ type cube does leave a certain level of satisfaction that might entice the viewer. It fits nicely in the palm of your hand and is comfortable to squeeze and toss. I think users might find a certain level of completion due to this familiarity and satisfaction, but it might not provide enough surprise to hold their attention. I am hypothesizing that it will be overshadowed by cubes that are larger in size and also more complex.

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My second cube concept came out differently than I expected. I wanted to make a cube that made sound and I thought a wind chime would work as the material. I took apart a typical wind chime and took the hollow metal tubes and strung them up with flexible chord to create the frame of a cube. The cube had twelve chimes and was squeezable. My assumption was that when the chimes clicked together they would resonate and make a satisfying noise for the user. What I did not predict was that once the tubes were filled with chord, they did not really chime at all. Luckily what was left was still an interesting cube. First, it was only just the frame of a cube, so it had a unique look and feel. It lacked a rigid shape, and I believe this will imply to the user that it is squeezable. In my personal METAL FRAME CUBE experience, this cube has a rich experience meaning that I enjoy squeezing it over and over again. The experience is fun and satisfying. It’s not very surprising and I may be assuming too much because I am using my enjoyment of this cube to predict the experience of the user. In comparison to the other cubes, I think its varied shape will entice the user, but its smaller three inch size will make it less noticeable.

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My last cube concept was more complex than the first two. I took eight small wooden blocks and attached them together so that the user could fold them up in to one larger cube. This means the user will constantly be turning the cube while interacting with it. To make the cubes adhere to each other properly, I had to use smaller wooden blocks than I initially intended. The lessened weight was important to the design, but that made it only about two inches in size. This also makes it a much smaller cube than the others in the class, which again might effect how the user is enticed by it. Also, it’s simple white design may not entice interaction. I think if someone is going to interact with the cube they will find it very satisfying. It’s fun to play with and move the small cubes around to make various shapes. There is a level of feedback and completion, but I am not sure if they will spend a long time with this cube. It may be interesting to try WHITE BLOCK CUBE out and then they will move on to something new. Despite this, this cube is the most complex and quite possibly has the most interesting interaction of all the cubes I designed. For this reason, I believe it will be my most successful design. For the sake of consistency, I will refer to my three cubes with the following titles: hacky sack cube, metal frame cube, and white block cube. The only exception will be in the section for the survey results. I will not change the phrasing of the individual users, as their language can be informative in understanding their perception of each cube.

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“No matter how skillful and creative the designer, if she does not have clear and detailed knowledge of the users she is designing for, the constraints of the problem, and the business or organizational goals that are driving design activities, she will have little chance of success.” —Alan Cooper, About Face

THE USER TEST: The cube user test was held in Poetter Hall room 104. A total of twelve cubes were displayed for users to interact with. Each user was given the same set of instructions: As to the objects on the table... DO: Face the camera. Investigate, play, explore, interact, observe, touch, be curious, check ‘em out DON’T: Break, throw, taste, steal, take too long (we’ll come and get you, about 5-10 minutes) The users were alone in the room with the cubes and they were filmed. After they interacted with the cubes they were given a survey that had the following questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Which cube(s) did you find most interesting and why? Which cube(s) did you find most satisfying and why? If any, which cube(s) was/were confusing and why? Which cube(s) did you find most exciting and why? Which cube(s) did you find most surprising and why? Which cube was/were your favorite and why?

7. Which cube was/were your least favorite and why? 8. Which cube(s) sustained your interest the longest and why? Each user wore a numbered tag and their survey had the same corresponding number. This way the survey and video results could be compared to each user. The purpose of the user test was to see if the assumptions about the design of each cube would be correct. In the following pages, the results of the survey are graphed and highlighted are the answers that correspond to my own designs: the hacky sack cube, the metal frame cube, and the white block cube.

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Which cube(s) did you find most interesting and why?

8 6 4 2 0

Black & Yellow

Guitar

Stick

Puzzle

White Blocks

Metal Frame

Stained Glass

Spring

Spin

Dream Catcher

Rain

Hacky Sack

METAL FRAME CUBE: User 2: Bendable metal cube, it feels like a toy User 15: The cube that was bendable, could be put in other cube like forms and a hex User 19: Cube constructed with aluminum cage for structure, it changes shape and perspective with user interaction WHITE BLOCK CUBE: User 7: The little white one User 21: The fragmented cube that was broken into 8 segments *Users tended to like the various shapes and perspectives that the metal frame cube could create.

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Which cube(s) did you find most satisfying and why?

8 6 4 2 0

Black & Yellow

Guitar

Stick

Puzzle

White Blocks

Metal Frame

Stained Glass

Spring

Spin

Dream Catcher

Rain

Hacky Sack

METAL FRAME CUBE: User 15: The cube that was bendable, could be put in other cube like forms and a hex WHITE BLOCK CUBE: User 17: The white cube that was made up of smaller white cubes, which moved around like a Jacob’s ladder toy. Enjoyable. User 18: White one (several cubes connected). Looks like some toy people would like to play with. *Out of 20 people surveyed 6 found the guitar most satisfying and 4 found the rain cube most satisfying. The conclusion makes sense that sound is a satisfying quality in interaction. Renee’s puzzle cube was also highly satisfying with 4 people choosing this one. Many people liked the function and problem solving aspect to this one. There is satisfaction to getting it right.

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If any, which cube(s) did was/were confusing and why?

8 6 4 2 0

Black & Yellow

Guitar

Stick

Puzzle

White Blocks

Metal Frame

Stained Glass

Spring

Spin

Dream Catcher

Rain

Hacky None Sack Confusing

HACKY SACK CUBE: User 11: Hacky Sack‌I guess I expected an additional function. *I believe the fact that only one of my designs was considered confusing was a success. I think that the simplicity of the hacky sack could be considered confusing among the more complex designs on the table. It may have seemed out of place. I feel that it really wasn’t a confusing concept, but maybe it was too simple to satisfy this user. This was the only user that did in fact smell the hacky sack and I hoped that this would make her experience with it richer, but I guess that smell is not really enough to make a hacky sack interesting.

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Which cube(s) did you find most exciting and why?

8 6 4 2 0

Black & Yellow

Guitar

Stick

Puzzle

White Blocks

Metal Frame

Stained Glass

Spring

Spin

Dream Catcher

Rain

Hacky Sack

HACKY SACK CUBE: User 5: Probably the hacky sack. It was sort of random. User 8: Hacky sack. I wanted to go outside and juggle it around. METAL FRAME CUBE: User 2: Bendable metal cube, fun to play with User 14: The string and pipe collapsible cube. It moved in the most unique ways and was satisfying User 18: [Metal Frame] – 3D and 2D with cube or square shape User 19: Cube made with aluminum cage and white cube that changed shape. I like the fact that user can interact with the art. WHITE BLOCK CUBE: User 7: The little white one, it never ended. User 17: The white cube. I didn’t expect it to operate the way it did. User 21: The 8-segmented and frame cubes. I really like symmetrical shapes and ones that play with perspective.

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10

Which cube(s) did you find most surprising and why?

8 6 4 2 0

Black & Yellow

Guitar

Stick

Puzzle

White Blocks

Metal Frame

Stained Glass

Spring

Spin

Dream Catcher

Rain

Hacky Sack

METAL FRAME CUBE: User 21: The frame cube was really cool in how it displayed on orthographic image of a cube and could be skewed/rotated. WHITE BLOCK CUBE: User 7: The little white one. I wonder how the cube was made. User 9: The small white cube because it broke into smaller ones and had a pleasant smell. User 17: The white cube. *I found it interesting that some people found the white block cube to be surprising. I had not considered this to be part of the function of the design. Also, the smell was purely accidental. I think surprise adds to the level of satisfaction in a design and makes the experience more rich for the user.

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10

Which cube was/were your favorite and why?

8 6 4 2 0

Black & Yellow

Guitar

Stick

Puzzle

White Blocks

Metal Frame

Stained Glass

Spring

Spin

Dream Catcher

Rain

Hacky Sack

HACKY SACK CUBE: User 8: Hacky sack cube. I didn’t worry about if it was going to break. METAL FRAME CUBE: User 2: Bendable cube. I would put it on my desk. User 14: String and pipe. It was the most satisfying and fun to hold. User 15: The bendable cube because of its different possibilities. User 19: Cube made of aluminum cage because it can morph and change to various shapes and design that user can alter. WHITE BLOCK CUBE: User 7: The little white cube. It was cute and little. User 17: The white cube. It was fun to interact with. User 21: 8-segmented cube for the many possible variations.

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10

Which cube was/were your least favorite and why?

8 6 4 2 0

Black & Yellow

Guitar

Stick

Puzzle

White Blocks

Metal Frame

Stained Glass

Spring

Spin

Dream Catcher

Rain

Hacky Sack

HACKY SACK CUBE: User 16: Hacky sack cube METAL FRAME CUBE: User 5: The small metal one. It wasn’t that interesting. User 11: Metal pipe/tent User 17: The springy metal cube. I wish it did more. *It seemed that users not only enjoyed cubes that were functional, but they also expected them to be functional. Many people were not happy if a cube was perceived to be purely aesthetic. This may be because they are designers, and I am curious if people with other backgrounds would have the same opinion. Although a couple people liked my hacky sack cube, I can see that it does not have much of a function. I found it interesting that three people did not like my bendable cubes and their reactions seemed quite opposite to the people that did like it. They felt it wasn’t interesting and did not do enough, while many other people commented on its many possibilities and the satisfying experience of playing with it. I feel since my white cube did not have any negative response, this may mean it’s my most successful design. 13


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Which cube(s) sustained your interest the longest and why?

8 6 4 2 0

Black & Yellow

Guitar

Stick

Puzzle

White Blocks

Metal Frame

Stained Glass

Spring

Spin

Dream Catcher

Rain

Hacky Sack

HACKY SACK CUBE: User 8: Hacky sack. I wanted to come back to it, but kept looking through all the cubes. I enjoyed how I could toss it around while I looked at the other cubes. METAL FRAME CUBE: User 15: Bendable cube because of the possibilites. WHITE BLOCK CUBE: User 11: The white one. I wanted to flip it up and catch it in one move! User 19: Small white cube. Putting back required multiple tries due to its irregularity in the way they fold. Simple but challenging. *There was a level of satisfaction with cubes that took time to figure out. Most commonly this was Steve’s black and yellow cube and Renee’s puzzle cube. They both required time and most users took the time to interact with them, and many commented that these were their favorites or considered them generally satisfying.

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“Typically, usability testing is focused on measuring how well users can complete specific, standardized tasks, as well as what problems they encounter in doing so. Results often reveal areas where users have problems understanding and utilizing the product, as well as places where users are more likely to be successful.” —Alan Cooper, About Face

CONCLUSION: Hack Sack Cube I decided to call this the hacky sack cube due to the fact that all users referred to it as such. I thought this common language in the surveys was interesting. One of my assumptions was that this object would feel familiar to users, and this shows how everyone has a common symbol when it comes to this cube. Although the hacky sack cube was not overwhelmingly popular, two users found it exciting. One user even wrote that they “wanted to go outside and juggle it around.” Most people had the reaction I expected: they tossed it and squeezed it. Some people turned it, sort of expecting it to do something else. One user even listed it as confusing for this reason: they expected it to do more. An interesting parallel is that another user listed the hacky sack’s randomness as a reason for its excitement. I was most surprised by the one user who listed the hacky sack cube as their favorite because they didn’t have to worry that it was going to break. This may be because it was soft and sturdy or maybe because the assumption that it was a hacky sack made this user feel comfortable holding it. Hacky sacks are meant to be thrown and kicked, and they can withstand a lot of wear and tear. It was also interesting that this same user said they interacted with this cube the longest because they could hold it and toss it while looking at the other cubes. I think that the small size might be another advantage here because most of the other cubes besides my own required the user to use both hands to use them. More timid users might be less intimidated by the smaller size. Not one user in the video really rubbed the cube. I knew it was going to be a difficult task to get users to perform all three actions. I thought the three different fabrics would be intriguing, but I realize now that the difference was too subtle and the fabrics were still quite ordinary. One user did smell the cube. They first seemed to notice a residue that came from the cube and

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wiped their finger on the table. They smelled their finger for the residue and then the cube. I was hoping this would be a more common reaction for users, but I think it was not interesting enough for most people to even spend enough time with this cube to notice the smell. Also, many of the other cubes had strong smells of adhesives or paint, so this may have overpowered the subtle lavender scent. I think it would have been interesting to microwave the cube because the heat would be surprising and it would bring out the smell. Unfortunately, this is what causes the residue, and I think this would deter most users because I was also turned off by this side effect. One user listed this as their least favorite cube, but they did not state why. This user really liked the rain stick cube because it was surprising and more complex than it initially appeared. They said it was fun to look at, and play with and they liked that they needed to interact with it in order to understand its function. I think that this can shine some light as to why they did not like the hacky sack. It is not complex or that interesting to look at, and unless you really like playing with hacky sacks, then it might not be that fun to play with. Overall, I think this cube was not complex enough to create a rich experience for the user. Although some people were really drawn to the hacky sack, they might have been drawn to the familiar experience and not any sort of compelling interaction. Metal Frame Cube The metal frame cube received many positive responses. All users that picked it up squeezed it, which I thought made it a successful design overall. The most common responses were that three users found it interesting, four users thought it was exciting, and four users said it was their favorite. The reasons for these positive responses were things like it feels like a toy, it collapses and changes shapes/ perspectives, it was fun to play with, and it was unique and satisfying. Despite its success, three users listed this as their least favorite cube. What was interesting about this is that their responses were contradictory to the positive responses. The impression from these users was that it wasn’t very interesting and they wished it did more. I think this might be due to the fact that it was a very simple design and many of the other cubes were quite complex. Only one user listed this as satisfying, and this may mean that the cube was not giving enough feedback to the users. Those that spent more time with it and treated it like a toy might have had a rich experience regardless of this lack of feedback. Some may be drawn in by the form and interesting visual display, but I can understand that this is not appealing to all users. Also, only one person listed this as surprising. Surprise is often a very satisfying feature in user interaction, and this cube may be lacking that hidden quality. Everything it has to offer is right on the surface.

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The aesthetic quality of this cube appealed to some users. In response to both the metal frame cube and the white block cube one user stated: “I like the fact that the user can interact with the art.” This is a really interesting choice of words and it may be due to the fact that this user is an art and design student. It shows that they consider the cube to be a functional piece of art. I hadn’t thought of it as an art piece, but maybe it’s sleek quality and interesting form give this perception. Another user that listed this as their favorite cube said that they would put this cube on their desk. I think it’s interesting that they would not only want to play with the cube, but they would also want to display it. I think appealing aesthetics is a satisfying feature to the design and helps to create a rich experience. Although it’s not enough for everyone, I think as designers we all know that something useful and visually compelling will trump a useful yet ugly design. Overall, I would qualify this design as a success. Users performed the desired action: to squeeze. Also, many users found their experience with the metal frame cube to be rich and exciting. If I was to change anything, I would try varying materials and scale of this cube. I am curious if people are more satisfied because they can fit this in the palm of their hand, or if it would be more compelling and stand out more at a larger size. White Block Cube The white block cube was possibly my most successful design. It received lots of positive feedback and not one negative comment. Two users thought the cube was interesting, two said it was satisfying, three people said it was exciting, three people thought it was surprising, it was three people’s favorite cube, and two users said it held their interest the longest. People said it was enjoyable, fun, like a toy, surprising interaction, and had interesting variations. One interesting thing about this cube was that many users picked it up off the table first. This may be due to the fact that it was white on a black table. The contrast and small size might have differentiated it from the other cubes and drew people in. I also think the small manageable size was less intimidating and a comfortable place to start. It would be interesting to try this cube in a dark color, as well as in a larger size. The two users that listed the white block cube as satisfying both described its toy-like qualities. One user actually compared it to a Jacob’s ladder toy, which is a comparison that I had been making. I think it’s interesting that someone else had made the same association and found that feature satisfying. The other user said that it looked like a toy people would like to play with. I found it interesting in the videos that many people did ‘play’ with this cube. Many people even put it on the table and so they could play with it on a flat surface. Some people swung it and flipped it around. Others liked to

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watch the blocks flip and fall as they turned in their hands. The element of play really seems to show that this design is complex enough to hold users interest. The cube gives satisfying feedback and provides an enjoyable experience. I think blocks are a familiar toy, but the experience is enriched by the surprising quality of the design. Three users said this was the most surprising cube because it broke into smaller cubes. I think surprise was lacking in my other designs and this is the reason why the white block cube received no negative feedback. Although surprising, not one user listed it as confusing because once the surprise wore off the design was easy to comprehend. Also, no one listed this cube as his or her least favorite because the experience was rich and interesting. It even captured two user’s interest the longest because they were playing with it. One was flipping it and making a game of trying to catch it and the other was interested in the multiple ways it could be put back together. One thing I learned from other cubes in the class is that people like puzzles and things that need to be figured out. Although the white block cube was not a complex puzzle, it sort of had that quality and I think that’s what held many people’s interest. If I were to change something, I would see if I could add more cubes to this design. I don’t know if it would work, but if I could combine twentyseven small cubes to make up one larger cube, I think users would really respond positively. Overall, based on the feedback I received, I can say that this is definitely my most successful cube design in the user test. User Test I think the user test went very well and the results were useful in understanding how users interacted with my cube designs. At first the users approached the cubes in a left to right format because they were all in a straight line. It was good that we changed this after the sixth user and instead bunched them in a random grouping. This way users would not automatically just choose from left to right, and it helped analyze how users would approach the cubes and see which ones they were drawn to first. Putting the cubes closer to the user would have helped because some users did not follow the directions and put their back to the camera. I think because they had to reach for the cubes the users were more comfortable going around the table. I also think that the directions could have been more visible or maybe we could have been clearer about delivering the directions. Instead of just hanging up a poster, each user could have been given quick verbal directions before entering the room. I think the most interesting change in the user test would be to vary the user pool. I would be curious what non-designers would do. Also, I think varying the age groups more would be fun. I think

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children and a range of adults would be a great sample to test. It would be difficult to survey children, and a different method would have to be used. I think the survey was great and the users were great at giving feedback, but not every user outside an academic environment would have the tolerance for this type of survey. Less formal interviews might be more revealing if non-designers were to be in the user test. Overall the experience was extremely valuable. I have never done a user test before, but I gained a lot of insight into how they are conducted, the limitations they have, and how to guide users in a way that yields the desired results but are not too leading. I think this test was a success, and I know it will inform my design process in the future.

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Interaction Design Experiment