From “good” to “OMG!”: How Interaction Design can supercharge your customer’s everyday experiences

Interaction Designer

When it comes to your own life, you’re an amazing interaction designer.

So much so, in fact, that you can do it multiple times before you’ve even finished your first coffee of the day. Think: when you sit down at your desk and put the cup on the other side of the table to avoid knocking it onto your computer. Or when you message your friends with a choice between only three restaurants for your Friday meetup – instead of asking them to pick absolutely anywhere they can think of. Or even when you put your cup in the sink to remind yourself to wash it later.
In all these moments, you’re designing interactions. And you don’t need to be a professional to design for yourself. But if you’re responsible for creating products and services for other people, you might need a more strategic approach.
Interaction Design, or IxD, has been around a long time. It’s a crucial, but often overlooked, part of the process of creating a great product or service. Essentially, IxD is about deliberately designing a key moment when a person interacts with something in order to improve their experience or create a particular outcome. Like making it easier to choose a restaurant or remember to do the dishes. You might hear that IxD is mostly associated with digital solutions, but it is really useful for physical products too.
IxD is one of those funny things that we tend to only notice when it creates a bad experience (like those prompts to get you to buy insurance on travel websites). But done well – and especially when it’s done in combination with other design disciplines – IxD can take your customer’s everyday interactions from forgettable to fantastic.
Here at Smart Design, we’ve been taking a few notes over the years of designing our clients’ physical and digital products. And here’s what we’ve learned.

Be honest: Are you really improving your customer’s experience? Or are you pushing another agenda?


One of the reasons why the travel insurance prompt doesn’t work is because it’s about pushing the company’s agenda first and improving the customer experience second…or not at all, come to think of it. Great IxD incorporates Human-Centered Design (HCD), where you put the user at the center of a holistic innovation process. Putting the focus on what they want and need, instead of what the company wants to sell.
Clients often come to us because they’re unsure of what their customers behaviors are. And you can’t design the experience if you don’t understand the behaviors of the people you’re designing for. Our strategic team starts by exploring how they use a product or service. To do so, we help clients to ask themselves questions like: What do people need? Where are the gaps in what they need? What do we need to design to meet that need?
We’re all great at designing our own experiences. Designing for others takes a more strategic approach. To guide us, Smarties use a whole bunch of principles in our work. Here are three of our favorites.

Three principles of “OMG!” interactions

Make it personal (Hick’s Law): Reduce the time it takes your customers to make decisions by giving them fewer, more personalized, choices.

Today more than ever, we’re all bombarded with input. Whether it’s constant news updates or messages on our devices, we can end up feeling overwhelmed by the world. Using Hick’s Law when creating your product can help to address that, by giving your user fewer options. A good everyday example would be the restaurant choices from earlier. A bad example would be news websites where the clickbait articles never end – enabling readers to doomscroll until they feel thoroughly depressed.
At Smart Design, we took a human-centered approach when we worked with the hearing aids company Amplifon. Our cross-functional team met with 160 people across five countries to understand their pain points and behaviors across the entire hearing care journey. We identified key moments where there were gaps in customer expectations and opportunities to innovate. Employing the principles of Hick’s Law was one way we approached the opportunity to design a personalized digital ecosystem to capture data about customers and give them fewer, but much more relevant choices. This includes, for example, enabling customers to choose more or less guidance. The award-winning innovation improved Amplifon’s operational efficiency, customer loyalty and adherence.   

Make it harder (Poka-Yoke): Reduce errors by using constraints.

Sometimes less is more. Poka-Yoke is about doing something deliberately that will prevent a mistake. You know that moment just before you go to sleep, when you put your phone on the other side of your bedroom to force yourself to get up the next morning to turn your alarm off? That’s Poka-Yoke. See also: moving your coffee to the other side of the table.
When it comes to product design, the theory also has an ethical application. Instead of simply asking “is this going to improve sales?” use Poka-Yoke to prompt yourself to explore if there’s something you need to give up. Particularly when you’re designing something addictive, like social media. The more addictive an interaction is, the more it might need constraints.
When Smart Design spoke to Rick Barraza at our Virtual Smart Salon on Ethics and Interaction Design, the creative technologist, storyteller and designer in the Ethics & Society team at Microsoft told us that this is particularly important when it comes to working with artificial intelligence: “AI is incredibly powerful, but it needs restrictions. You can’t move fast and break things when what you’re breaking is society.”
This was uppermost in our minds when we worked with Meta to learn about how teenagers and their guardians feel about social media, privacy and online safety. Together, using cross-discipline approaches like HCD and Co-Design, we explored the dynamic of guardian control, asking questions like: Should there be any constraints? If so, where could they work best for everyone?
This shared mission to build positive online experiences for families helped inform the creation of Meta’s Family Center.

Make it harder…and easier (yes, seriously)

Make it easier too (Fitt’s Law): Enable your customers to reach their goal by bringing it within reach.

On a screen, Fitt’s Law literally describes how close the cursor is to the button you want someone to click – because the closer it is, the easier it is to reach.
But in the physical world, Fitt’s Law describes a more conceptual goal. When you stop using your treadmill as a bookshelf or a clothes rack to make it easier to do an hour of exercise every day, you’re using Fitt’s.  
At Smart Design, we kept this law in mind when we designed a way to help Gatorade’s customers keep track of their hydration needs. Together, we created an ecosystem of physical and digital products and solutions, to make it easier for athletes to reach their fitness goal (without the need of a professional lab) by delivering personalized recommendations. The result has become Gatorade owner PepsiCo’s new standard in using a design-led approach to shift from product to product/service ecosystems. Talk about upping their game in hydration innovation.

The OMG roadmap: a cross-discipline approach that drives ongoing results

In your everyday life, you use Hick’s, Fitt’s and Poka-Yoke without even realizing it. But when you’re designing products and services for thousands (or even millions) of customers, it requires something more deliberate and cross-functional.
That’s why Smarties incorporate a wide range of design methods in our work, including HCD, Co-Design and many others. It’s a unique blend of approaches across physical and digital solutions that leads our clients in all sorts of directions. From small moments to interconnected ecosystems that keep growing and evolving with their customers…and ultimately supercharging peoples’ experiences from “meh” to “amazing.”

About Sophia Xu

Sophia is an interaction designer who believes design should positively advance the human experience. As a multidisciplinary designer, she brings a fresh perspective to designs. She holds an Industrial Design BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

Learn more about Interaction Design at Smart Design