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Style in Interaction and UX Design

Catalina Butnaru - Saturday, September 11, 2010 |

We live in the age of individuality, in the sense that, whether it's business, personal stuff or anything else in between, we seek and prefer systems that allow us make our own choices; we prefer those over standardized solutions. From customization to user oriented services and products, the center of gravity shifted from the general mass of people to you.

We even witnessed this transition. It was a brief but fundamental turn. It's not about what everybody does anymore, it's all about what you want.

We have seen this with clients, consumers, as well as with everybody in our team: it's a very particular type of positioning. You are important and everybody else is important too. This type of positioning is embedded in the style of interaction, a topic we think needs more attention, because it is connected to UX Design principles.

Sketching
Photo by: NathanaelB

A Brief Definition of Style

If there is any principle in design that we are surely aware of and care about - that principle must be related to style. We define style as:

A personal statement one makes through what they do

A simple and unmistakable bouquet of something one creates

The look and feel of people, places and things

UX Design and Rules of Interaction

It is clear then that style plays a major role in business, communication, interaction and in various areas of visual expression, from design to architecture and art. We use message, facts and style cues to determine whether we made a choice that fits our preferences and expectations. Speaking of expectations, everybody expects some type of aesthetic touch added to the service or product provided. That aesthetic touch can come from the provider (designer items or gifts) or from the user (customized services, user-oriented interfaces).

Purpose and Clarity

Every startup, product or application needs a launching place and an interaction arena. Some think of websites as launching places in the virtual market. But we like to think it is actually an interaction area or arena. And we like to think that clients feel the same way about it.

When you design and build a website, what type of information do you consider to be vital, to start with? It can be in any order, but it all comes down to message, appearance, purpose and functionality. Is that enough? Maybe. Should finding and expressing a certain style be constrained by budget? We think not. The only thing that deprives work of style is lack of passion or lack of understanding.

Style in a user centered design practice is a personal or formal expression of how you think about your users, clients, fans and friends. Community oriented websites are extremely relevant for that matter. For example, when users have their own profiles, whether it's a simple description and a picture or a stuffed profile with lots of things going on - it's all about that special spot - the users spot, that they get to customize. That is a basic and extremely engaging level of interaction. Style, in this case, is not determined by how people get to customize their own profiles, but by intrinsic rules of interaction, permission levels and privacy settings. These things will encourage a certain type of communication and eventually, the desired style of interaction (user-to-user and user-to-website) will be achieved.

UX Design is all about style, too. UX Design emerged partly because of how our lifestyle changed. The way we present, absorb and communicate things is soaked with graphics. Design is everywhere. Consequently, aesthetics and design will channel information in a way that is persuasive and attractive to say the least.

UX Designers know aesthetic pleasure calls to action. But they will add a sense of direction, purpose and clarity to that website. And so, this is the part where you feel and understand the message, the story, the personality behind it all.

UX Design uses style to make a website memorable and have personality.

Gesture, attitude, behaviour
Photo by: Marcwathieu

Effective Use of Interaction Elements

People will use specific elements to interact with your website. Menus, navigation and action buttons, forms and communication-related elements. These are well known, frequently used elements that can make an interface more or less enjoyable.

When using these elements, your experience, communication skills and approach to web design and development will become part of the style of interaction defining your website interface.

The Behaviorist Approach

You think that people come to your website to do or find something and then decide on the next step. You think they will enjoy using different selection and search tools, rating and tagging and eventually - you think they want to buy or subscribe to everything they think is good for them. Therefore, this final step will be one or two clicks away and the style of your website will be something similar to Jerry Maguire. You prefer e-commerce websites or something similar – as far as functionality and design are concerned. You will encourage the user to do something every time they visit your website and you probably don’t want them to customize things too much, because that makes you feel you can’t predict how they will react and what they will do on your website.

The All-things-social Approach

You think the web is a better, more versatile and more enticing extension of real-life interaction. You use interaction elements to encourage people engage in conversations, build relationships, find friends, share things about themselves. Your choice of design is made based on the idea that your website has a story and a personality. You will try to make users stay longer on your website, enjoying a fun environment, as well as a very casual and relaxed style embedded in the way you talk to them.

Information Oriented Approach

You think information is the purpose, therefore you focus on usability and look. You prefer revealing your style through typography and sleek CSS effects. You think that people who come to your website want to stay informed and connected, but you leave either of those two choices in their own hands. Interaction elements are seamlessly integrated in the interface layout and perfectly adjusted to fit the general style, color palette and theme.

Endnote: Style is something that you feel, live and express through what you do. If you believe in your message and if you can picture yourself actually interacting with the type of people you want to be your fans, then you are on the right track. You are ready to make it big, with style.

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