Coping with Design Complexity: A Conceptual Framework for Design Alternatives and Variants

  • Judy Bowen
  • Anke Dittmar
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10513)


Interaction design processes are characterised by multi-disciplinary teamwork and by an interplay of creative, situated and analytical thinking. Although design in the domain of human-computer interaction has been widely investigated, the focus of research has been mainly on the user’s role and several authors refer to the need for a deeper understanding of the increasingly complex interaction design processes. This paper suggests a conceptual framework for interaction design that accommodates and unifies different perspectives from general design research while considering the specificities of the domain. Within the framework, description and analysis is done through the lens of design spaces, design artefacts, and refinement relationships between design artefacts. The framework extends existing concepts of design spaces by introducing complex spaces which acknowledge that design is rarely an individual activity but is more often undertaken by teams of designers. The framework also offers a distinction between design options into alternatives and variants to better describe and guide processes of idea generation and a convergence within, and between different sub-spaces and sub-teams. Different types of refinement between design artefacts are also discussed.



We thank Wanying Yang and the participants of course 23149 on interactive systems. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.


  1. 1.
    Baker, M., Détienne, F., Burkhardt, J.M.: Quality of collaboration in design: articulating multiple dimensions and viewpoints. In: 1st Interdisciplinary Innovation Conference (2013)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bellotti, V., Shum, S., MacLean, A., Hammond, N.: Multidisciplinary modelling in HCI design in theory and in practice. In: SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 1995, pp. 146–153. ACM (1995)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Benyon, D., Turner, P., Turner, S.: Designing Interactive Systems: People, Activities, Contexts, Technologies. Addison-Wesley, New York (2005)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bødker, S., Grønbæk, K., Kyng, M.: Cooperative design: techniques and experiences from the Scandinavian scene. In: Schuler, D., Namioka, A. (eds.) Participatory Design: Principles and Practices, pp. 157–176. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale (1997)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bowen, J., Reeves, S.: Formal refinement of informal GUI design artefacts. In: Australian Software Engineering Conference (ASWEC 2006), pp. 221–230. IEEE (2006)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bowen, J., Dittmar, A.: A semi-formal framework for describing interaction design spaces. In: 8th ACM SIGCHI Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems, EICS 2016, pp. 229–238. ACM (2016)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Buxton, B.: Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design. Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco (2007)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cross, N.: Design cognition: results from protocol and other empirical studies of design activity. In: Eastman, C., McCracken, M., Newstetter, W. (eds.) Design Knowing and Learning: Cognition in Design Education, pp. 79–103. Elsevier, Oxford (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cross, N.: Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work. Bloomsbury Publ. (2011).
  10. 10.
    Détienne, F., Martin, G., Lavigne, E.: Viewpoints in co-design: a field study in concurrent engineering. Des. Stud. 26(3), 215–241 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Diaper, D.: The handbook of task analysis for human- computer interaction. In: Diaper, D., Stanton, N. (eds.) Understanding Task Analysis for Human-Computer Interaction. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc., Mahwah (2004)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Dittmar, A., Piehler, S.: A constructive approach for design space exploration. In: 5th ACM SIGCHI Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems, EICS 2013, pp. 49–58. ACM (2013)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Dorst, K.: On the problem of design problems - problem solving and design expertise. J. Des. Res. 4(2), 123 (2004)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Fallman, D.: Design-oriented human-computer interaction. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2003, pp. 225–232. ACM (2003)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Fischer, G., Giaccardi, E., Ye, Y., Sutcliffe, A.G., Mehandjiev, N.: Meta-design: a manifesto for end-user development. Commun. ACM 47(9), 33–37 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Goodman, E., Stolterman, E., Wakkary, R.: Understanding interaction design practices. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2011, pp. 1061–1070. ACM (2011)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Gould, J.D., Lewis, C.: Designing for usability: key principles and what designers think. Commun. ACM 28(3), 300–311 (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Grudin, J., Pruitt, J.: Personas, participatory design and product development: an infrastructure for engagement. In: Proceedings of PDC 2002, pp. 144–161 (2002)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Hix, D., Hartson, H.: Developing User Interfaces: Ensuring Usability through Product and Process. Wiley, New York (1993)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Jackson, M.: Representing structure in a software system design. Des. Stud. 31(6), 545–566 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    John, B.E., Bass, L., Sanchez-Segura, M.-I., Adams, R.J.: Bringing usability concerns to the design of software architecture. In: Bastide, R., Palanque, P., Roth, J. (eds.) DSV-IS 2004. LNCS, vol. 3425, pp. 1–19. Springer, Heidelberg (2005). doi: 10.1007/11431879_1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Lacaze, X., Palanque, P., Barboni, E., Bastide, R., Navarre, D.: From DREAM to reality: specificities of interactive systems development with respect to rationale management. In: Dutoit, A., McCall, R., Mistrik, I., Paech, B. (eds.) Rationale Management in Software Engineering, pp. 155–172. Springer, Heidelberg (2006). doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-30998-7_7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Lee, J., Lai, K.Y.: What’s in design rationale? Hum.-Comput. Interact. 6(3), 251–280 (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    MacLean, A., Bellotti, V., Shum, S.: Developing the design space with design space analysis. In: Byerley, P.F., Barnard, P.J., May, J. (eds.) Computers, Communication and Usability: Design Issues, Research and Methods for Integrated Services, pp. 197–219. Elsevier, Amsterdam (1993)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    MacLean, A., Young, R., Bellotti, V., Moran, T.: Questions, options, and criteria: elements of design space analysis. Hum.-Comput. Interact. 6(3), 201–250 (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Milner, R.: Elements of interaction: turing award lecture. Commun. ACM 36(1), 78–89 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Moran, T.P., Carroll, J.M. (eds.): Design Rationale: Concepts, Techniques, and Use. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc., Hillsdale (1996)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Morgan, C.: Programming from Specifications, 2nd edn. Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd., Englewood Cliffs (1998)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Nigay, L., Coutaz, J.: A Design space for multimodal systems: concurrent processing and data fusion. In: INTERACT 1993 and CHI 1993, pp. 172–178. ACM (1993)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Olson, G.M., Olson, J.S., Carter, M.R., Storrøsten, M.: Small group design meetings: an analysis of collaboration. Hum.-Comput. Interact. 7(4), 347–374 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Paterno, F.: Model-Based Design and Evaluation of Interactive Applications. Springer, London (2000). doi: 10.1007/978-1-4471-0445-2 CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Rittel, H., Webber, M.: Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sci. 4, 155–169 (1973)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Rosson, M.B., Carroll, J.M.: Usability Engineering: Scenario-Based Development of Human-Computer Interaction. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., San Francisco (2002)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Schön, D.: The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Basic Books, New York (1983)Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Stolterman, E.: The nature of design practice and implications for interaction design research. Int. J. Des. 2(1), 55–65 (2008)Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Tang, A., Aleti, A., Burge, J., van Vliet, H.: What makes software design effective? Des. Stud. 31, 614–640 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Tang, A., Han, J., Vasa, R.: Software architecture design reasoning: a case for improved methodology support. IEEE Softw. 26(2), 43–49 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Telier, A., Binder, T., De Michelis, G., Ehn, P., Jacucci, G., Wagner, I.: Design Things. MIT Press, Cambridge (2011)Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Visser, W.: Designing as construction of representations: a dynamic viewpoint in cognitive design research. Hum.-Comput. Interact. 21(1), 103–152 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Westerlund, B.: Design Space Exploration - Co-operative creation of proposals for desired interactions with future artefacts. Dissertation, Kungliga Tekniska högskolan, Stockholm (2009)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Winograd, T.: Beyond calculation. In: Denning, P.J., Metcalfe, R.M. (eds.) The Design of Interaction, pp. 149–161. Copernicus, New York (1997)Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Wirth, N.: Program development by stepwise refinement. Commun. ACM 14(4), 221–227 (1971)CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Wolf, T.V., Rode, J.A., Sussman, J.B., Kellogg,W.A.: Dispelling “design” as the black art of CHI. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2006, pp. 521–530. ACM (2006)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.University of RostockRostockGermany

Personalised recommendations