Beacon and raindrops interaction profiles

After building the beacon/staircase and raindrops programs, my partner Kathrine and I were discussing the qualities of each program, and decided to analyze the interactions using the interaction attributes by Lenz, Diefenbach & Hassenzahl (2013).

In the illustration below are shown our analysis of the beacon/staircase program, with the x-axis mapping (green) and time mapping (blue), as well as the raindrops with varying contrast (orange) and varying speed (red).

Blue and green relates to the beacon/staircase program and orange and red to the raindrops program.

Beacon/staircase profile

The blue and green lines are relatively similar. Not surprising considering they are describing almost the same program. However there are some discrepancies that appear as a consequence of the two different mappings.

Both variations of the programs have been attributed with a fast interaction. The user is only required to make a single click, which hardly takes even a second. The interaction is stepwise, as the staircase sequence is inherently stepwise and the required click also requires a single discrete step.

Although the interaction is fast, the reaction of the program is often delayed when the sequencer is mapped to the x-axis. No reaction is shown before the sequencer reaches the particular steps, where the bright flash has been inserted. Depending on the mouse position this can be shortly after a click or after almost a full cycle. When sequencer is mapped to time, the user will see one or two bright flashes immediately after clicking, meaning that this variation of the program provides a more instant interaction.

The interaction is somewhat diverging, as interaction with the program does not give the same result every time. While the functionality of the program is the same, it differs in timing and delay. Interacting with the program is done through mouse actions with makes it mediated. However the reaction and action happens in the same area of the screen which led us to categorize the interaction as being moderately mediated. Spatial separation/proximity are highly related concepts, but focus more on the physical distance. Thus we see the interaction as being spatially proximate, as the mouse actions happen only a few centimeters from the screen.

The interaction with the beacon/staircase program is powerful as a small action creates an amplified and very expressive reaction, although it is mostly approximate, as it can be hard to get the timing exactly as you want it. The interaction is highly targeted because of the mapping to the sequencer. Lastly the interaction is covered, as the internal working of the program are not very obvious to the user.

Raindrops profile

The raindrops program have a very different profile than the former being diametrically opposite in many aspects. Although the interaction is still fast, the reaction is not delayed and is reflected almost immediately on the screen. The interaction is fluent, as the program react to gradually changes in the lighting conditions. The interaction is uniform and mostly constant, the reaction is expected and the same every time, though environmental factors such as clouds or other peoples shadows might influence it slightly.

The interaction is very direct, as the program reacts directly on physical changes in the environment that the user (mostly) creates through physical actions, such as moving the computer or closing the curtains. Thus the spatial separation can vary between being very proximate when the users covers the light sensor with his or her hands. Or it can be separated with the users using curtains or external light switches to interact with the program.

The interaction is approximate, as it is not possible to fine-tune the speed or contrast of the blinking sequence. Where the two variations of the program differ in terms of interaction, is that the variations in the sequence timing create a more visually expressive result of the interaction as compared to variations in contrast. This makes the interaction seem more powerful.

As many environmental factors can produce a reaction in the program, we categorize the interaction as being somewhere in between targeted and incidental. The relation between action and reaction, quickly becomes apparent to the user, and is thus very apparent.

Discussion of the interaction attributes

Working with Lenz, Hassenzahl & Diefenbach’s (2013) interaction attributes was not entirely straightforward. While they provide a framework for talking about interaction, my partner and I had to discuss most of the attributes several times before agreeing on an understanding of the concepts. One of the reasons that it was difficult to agree, was that many of the continuums seems to be overlapping. Discerning between categories such as uniform/divergent and constant/inconstant can be hard, as some features seems to be overlapping. The continuum between uniform/divergent is also hard to define as it relies on the expectations of the user. As the system designer it would be natural to find almost any behavior uniform, as it corresponds to how the system is built.

Making mappings like this might make sense for comparing similar interactions as in this case, but without a specific definition of parameters such as slow and fast the mapping becomes very contextually dependent.

These interaction attributes have this far been an very useful vocabulary for discussion interactions, but should regarded as such, and not as a tool for precise assessments.


Lenz, E., Diefenbach, S., & Hassenzahl, M. (2013, September). Exploring relationships between interaction attributes and experience. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces (pp. 126–135). ACM.

Lim, Y. K., Stolterman, E., Jung, H., & Donaldson, J. (2007, August). Interaction gestalt and the design of aesthetic interactions. In Proceedings of the 2007 conference on Designing pleasurable products and interfaces (pp. 239–254). ACM.

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