10 Essential Interactive Design Interview Questions*

How would you avoid letting innovation overwhelm you?

Randy J. Hunt, Etsy’s creative director and author of Product Design for the Web, has warned designers about going fancy saying, “Hey, designers: stop trying to be so clever.”

It is a fact that web designers are a creative lot. And when we talk about creativity, it sometimes borders towards the fancy with self-expression, the usual excuse for fanciness and flashiness. There’s nothing wrong with being creative and innovative but, when it comes to web design, creativity should be balanced by logic and common sense. What does that mean?

In simple terms, a website should not lose its functionality and intuitiveness for creativity’s sake. Users still want what’s familiar and useful even though they are impressed by those animations and embellishments.

If you were to choose between two websites, which one would you go for: a website with fancy animations that leaves you confused, or a simple and straight to the point one which leaves you well-informed?

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How would you achieve clarity in navigation elements?

Your website serves as your online home. When people visit it, you want to impress them as you show them around. Therefore, a good tour guide is important; the best features are highlighted ensuring your visitors will visit again and become regular patrons.

In a website, your navigation keys serve as your tour guide; they should be clear, unambiguous and straight to the point. They should clearly show visitors where to go, what to do, and what the next step is.

Sure it is fun to use unique and creative labels, but if it leaves your visitors lost, dazed, and confused, they are not necessary. Always put yourself in your visitors’ shoes when designing your website.

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When and how would you find “above the fold” most effective?

There are still web designers who make the mistake of packing everything into one place and calling their work “creative freedom,” cramming all the boxes, colors, fonts, and design on the top of a single page and thinking it looks good, for example. A website is neither an abstract or surreal work of art that makes the overall design crowded and users confused. It is what it is: a website from which people get information.

All those stylish and cool elements are nice but if you pile them together in one place, it will look ghastly and unfashionable.

A good website is both simple and functional. Instead of filling your homepage with product images, multiple CTAs, and input forms, make your message simple and direct to the point.

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Explain how you would ensure users won’t get bored with your design.

Only ask for what you need; that’s the number one rule if you don’t want users to abandon your website. Imagine visiting a website that asks for your address, email, phone number, job title, and credit card number just to buy an ebook. Instead of complying, you leave because you simply don’t have time to provide all that information.

The blame, of course, cannot be solely the responsibility of the designer because there are still a lot of website owners who insist that this or that element should be included, even though it will greatly affect the functionality of the design.

As a designer, it is your responsibility to educate your clients why this design and these elements work. When you explain everything to them clearly, you won’t have a hard time convincing them what to put into their websites.

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How important is contrast in your interaction design projects?

Psychology explains why we need contrast in order to make meaningful decisions. Contrast is crucial in the decision-making process. Sadly, there are still a lot of designers who fail at implementing contrast properly. For contrast to be effective, you have to know what shapes, colors, sizes, and positions are effective when combined together.

What happens if you use a gray background against black and white? That website is a disaster waiting to happen, as the background distracts visitors from the most important elements of the site.

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How do you achieve equally user-friendly usability across many devices?

The fundamental aspect of cross-platform usability this would be to use responsive instead of adaptive design. The main difference between the two is that adaptive design consists of multiple fixed-width layouts, whereas responsive design consists of multiple fluid grid layouts. In other words, responsive IxD platforms always respond to their environment.

Using responsive design allows designers to make an interface aesthetically appealing and user-friendly on any display size. It would be also worth adding that many designers start designing from small sized devices before scaling their designs up. This concept is known as Start Small, or Mobile First.

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How do you use consistency in your Interaction Design projects?

It’s worth noting that designers love to mix and match a lot of what they’ve learned to express their creativity. Unfortunately, it means that it’s often advisable to get back to the drawing board and start over. Why? Simply because the overall look and feel of the IxD project may end up very chaotic and confusing.

Great IxD always remains consistent.

Designers prefer to use consistency to make users feel in control and increase their efficiency. Everyone who uses an interface may choose to interact with it in their own different ways, but designers have to make sure that the way their design interacts always stays consistent. A very simple example is to make every external link open in a new window or tab. It is the interaction designer’s responsibility to extend this behavior across all stages of the platform, including all links and interactions.

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How can information be made quickly accessible using typography?

Every end user without exception always prefers to be able to access information quickly and easily.

Unfortunately, this can be made difficult and challenging for the end user if there are a lot of different styles, sizes and colors used in lettering. Even worse, sometimes we see text over an animated or flashing background.

It’s always wise to stick to the following typography design rules to make information quickly accessible:

  • Build a clear hierarchy
  • Pay attention to text alignment
  • Limit the number of font sizes, types, and colors (ideally, choose up to three)
  • Make good use of whitespace (sometimes called blank space) when and where necessary
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What are your thoughts on the use of marketing pop-ups to interact with users?

One of the best compliments an interaction designer can get is when a user repeatedly uses and interacts with the platform over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, marketing pop-ups are known to achieve the exact opposite, due to their reputation of irritating users and visitors.

Pop-ups by themselves are not harmful, provided they are implemented correctly. For example, if a pop-up is employed as a way to interact with the end user to confirm if they really intended to delete a certain file or folder, a cautionary pop-up is useful and not irritating.

At the same time, marketing pop-ups are mainly focused on increasing the number of sign-ups, subscribers, etc.

This type of pop-up should be avoided in IxD if there is any other way to get the project finished without them. If not, there are a few ways of making them less irritating:

  • Make them simple
  • Make the close button very visible
  • Reduce the amount of pop-ups
  • Allow the user to unsubscribe/opt-out
  • Avoid audible notifications
  • Make them fast
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How do you utilize Hierarchy of Control in your design projects?

This technique is another way Interaction Designers IxD can make users feel comfortable using the platform, which in turn will make them more efficient.

The way Hierarchy of Control can be made clearly apparent is generally by grouping controls which affect an object with the object itself, such as zoom controls on a map. A hierarchy is created by associating controls which influence a smaller group of objects with the entire group.

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* There is more to interviewing than tricky technical questions, so these are intended merely as a guide. Not every “A” candidate worth hiring will be able to answer them all, nor does answering them all guarantee an “A” candidate. At the end of the day, hiring remains an art, a science — and a lot of work.
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Javier Amate
Finland
Javier has more than 10 years of experience designing cross-platform services for the web, mobile, and wearables. He has worked for companies with national and international presence like Nokia, Konecranes, Pfizer, Finnair, Nokia Technologies, and Microsoft. His specialties are user experience design, service design, information architecture, interaction design, research, wireframes, interactive prototyping, and user testing.
Natasha Levitan
United States
Natasha has over 12 years of experience designing applications for desktop, mobile, and web platforms. Her clients include Goldman Sachs, UBS, JP Morgan Chase, advertising agencies, and startups, giving her a breadth of experience from working with a variety of customers. She values innovation and has worked with teams of all sizes.
Ruby Zheng
United States
Ruby's passion is to design clean and smart solutions for digital experiences. She can work with you to translate your business goals and user needs into user-friendly web and mobile products. She specializes in information architecture (IA), interaction design (IxD), front-end development, and accessibility.
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