4 Principles for interface design with natural matter

This guide provides you with a collection of findings that considers the physical characteristics of natural objects. Besides, it lights up opportunities to connect them to interactive infographics.

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR PHYSICAL OBJECT

Physical objects have different properties, such as temperature, surface structure, weight, and size. Furthermore, everybody got distinct associations with a natural matter. They can be culturally imprinted or personally experienced. It is crucial to understand the individual characteristics of an object to use them appropriately. One item is not stable enough for frequent use, while another one may imply a cultural significance.

2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT FORM OF INTERACTION

There are various conventions in screen design. Swipe, pan, scroll, rotate, press, tab, and direct interactions with the mobile devices, such as shaking and sudden stops of a movement. Most of them work as a button. According to the principle, trigger action. Others map content onto a scale, corresponding to the slider principle. Physical interfaces open up further possibilities to manipulate, touch and feel the controls. We can deform them, arrange them in space, or refer them directly to visual content. That can help to understand complex topics easily. Though, it is crucial to use the appropriate interaction for each matter and content.

3. CONNECT GRAPHICAL REPRESENTATIONS WITH PHYSICAL OBJECTS

Keyboards and mouses are well suited to control varying content. In contrast, tangible items can control graphic elements individually and directly. We can express something through their shape, weight, or surface texture. That layer of information makes information directly perceptible because it indicates the effect on the graphic. Thus, a connection of graphical representations and physical objects enables more intuitive handling.

4. QUESTION THE USEFULNESS OF THE INTERACTION

Interactions can be fun. Yet, they do not always make sense. Additional entertaining effects can impress, though they might confuse at the same time. To question the usefulness of the interaction protects the actual message from distractions.

Most graphical user interfaces follow fixed conventions. Mainly for good reasons. They simplify the operation for users, as they do not have to reorient themselves constantly. However, relying too much on conventions can lead to generic outcomes. Inspiration from the real world helps to develop individual solutions.

These four principles encourage you to experiment with natural objects and physical interactions. Changing the perspective on interaction opportunities will help you to discover more intuitive graphical user interfaces.