The eleven interaction design spectrums

Constrained to flexible

Software can constrain and guide a person, or it can aim to offer them as many options as possible and let them decide. Opinionated software is more constrained, for example.

Familiar to novel

Familiar interaction design takes advantage of a person’s existing knowledge. Novel interaction design requires a person to explore and become familiar with it.

Operationally to perceptually simple

An interface is operationally simple if there’s one interactive element per action. This can lead to clutter. It is perceptually simple if many actions are combined into one interactive element (e.g. a menu). This can lead to discoverability issues.

Screen-by-screen to all-at-once

You can keep each screen simple and put all elements on separate screens, or you can put everything on one screen. e.g. a website with a different page for each topic vs. a website with everything on one page, which requires scrolling.

Shallow to steep learning curve

A shallow learning curve makes use of more helping hands to help a person become familiar with the interface. It might lead to frustrating “slowness” for some users. A steep learning curve drops a person in the deep end, but might suit people who are happy to tinker to understand the interface.

Static to animated

An interface can use no animation, or lots. Animation can help people to understand how the interface works.

Broad to deep information architecture

A broad information architecture is generally easier to understand, but takes up more space. A deep information architecture takes up less space, but has many more levels to explore.

Single-purpose to multi-purpose features

Single purpose features are designed to do one thing. They might be easier to understand, but there will be more of them. Multi-purpose features are generally designed to support different use cases, but they are naturally more complicated. e.g. one dialogue box for each text setting in a word processor, versus one dialogue box with all of the text settings.

Single-approach to multi-approach actions

How many ways are there to take an action? e.g. you can make some text bold with a keyboard shortcut, a toolbar button, or a menu option.

Close to distant controls

Controls can sit near the element they affect, or somewhere else. For example, a 3D modelling app might have controls that affect a 3D model next to the model, or in a toolbar far away from the model.

Modeless to modal

Do various actions put the software into different modes? e.g. You can show a delete action for every element in a list, or wait until the person turns on an “edit” mode before you show actions like delete.