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Interactive design patterns

"attractors in design space"

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An interaction design (ID) pattern is a general, repeatable solution to a commonly occurring usability problem in interface design or interaction design. It is a more specific instance of a design pattern, which is a general, repeatable solution to a commonly occurring problem (in any discipline or field).


Design pattern; style guide; pedagogical patterns; architectural patterns.


Identifying an interaction design pattern is a way of "crystallising" - qua capturing or bringing into focus - a particular user experience and can help to:

  • Avoid repeating errors
  • Introduce existing interaction system to new designers
  • Facilitate training and education

An ID pattern usually consists of the following six (6) elements:

  1. The problem - problems are related to the usage of the system and are relevant to the user or any other stakeholder that is interested in usability
  2. The context - a situation (in terms of task, user and the context of use) giving rise to a usability problem. This section extends the plain problem-solutions dichotomy by describing situations in which the problems occur
  3. The principle - a pattern is usually based on one or more ergonomic principles such as user guidance, or consistency, or error management.
  4. The solution - a proven solution to the problem. A solution describes only the core of the problem, and the designer has the freedom to implement it in many ways. Other patterns may be needed to solve sub problems
  5. The rationale - an analysis of how and why the pattern actually works, including how it may affect certain attributes of usability. The rationale should provide a reasonable argument for the specified impact on usability when the pattern is applied. The why should describe which usability aspects should have been improved or which other aspects might suffer
  6. The examples - each example shows how the pattern has been successfully applied in a real life system. This is often accompanied by a screenshot and a short description.

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