On By Design this morning on Radio National, they were talking about the role corners have in urban design. The guest, Stephen Collier, noted that 'joins' create interesting challenges across design fields. He mentioned urban design, architecture and furniture design as examples.

The same applies to interaction design. As I've always said, just like buildings, user interfaces are most likely to break at the 'joins'.

While we have to be careful to make sure to get the interaction design right for any one screen or page, it is usually most difficult to get the design right where the user is moving between screens or pages, or where different functions intersect. Challenges include:

  • Making sure people understand where they are going and where they have been (especially on the web)
  • Making sure any information needed is carried across or readily available as people move through the product
  • Understanding where people are likely to want to go next, and presenting those options clearly.

You guessed it, it's a compromise

When considering the joins in your design you are faced with a compromise: is it better to bring more information and features onto one page/screen so there are fewer joins, or is it better to spread the information and features across more joins, so each step is simpler, but there are more steps?

More complex steps, or more complex process?

Consider how many different paths there are through the features, and how much information and functionality needs to be shared between different tasks as you consider designing the joins in your application.