Design for focused and peripheral interaction


As humans, we are unknowingly experienced with peripheral and implicit interactions. When walking into a coupé full of silent people we tend to stop our conversation or at least lower our voice level to an acceptable volume, without any conscious decision making (Ju & Leifer, 2008). When walking up to our front door we can proceed with a phone conversation while we open our front door with a key (Bakker & Niemantsverdriet, 2016). Implementation of these interactions, implicit like the first example and peripheral as described in the second example, helps to make the day-to-day activities a lot smoother. Implementation of these interaction methods within products can, therefore, add to seamless interaction between product and user.

order to fully understand the interaction-attention continuum (Bakker & Niemantsverdriet, 2016), we explored the way people effortlessly divide their attention over several everyday activities by recording and analyzing our own everyday tasks. Through discussing our interaction states and transitions, we got a better understanding of seamless interactions. Hereafter, we were able to design for both focused and peripheral interactions.

As a result of our study, we have designed a product called DiP, which is an add-on to an already existing Spotify app and allows for an easy music interaction in a homely and social context. Physical interaction with the DiP gives grove control and can be done in the subconscious due to the minimal amount of mental resources required. This will, over time, allow the user to interact with the device in the full periphery of his attention.

Finally, a prototype was deployed in living lab research setting to find out how participants perceived the interactions. Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected during each study. Multiple participants indicated they would prefer using DiP during social events, since they could interact with people and still adjust their music. Moreover, a quantitative data analysis concludes that the participants rate the interaction with DiP as significantly less effort compared to the interaction with Spotify on the RSME effort scale.


Desk research

Analyzing different interactions

Living lab study

Analyzing user experience

Concept development

User interaction design

Living lab research

Physical interaction with the DiP gives grove control over music

Physical interaction with the DiP gives grove control over music

User & Society

In the beginning of the course, we discussed several items like the attention theory, calm technology and ambient information. The combination of discussing literature and analyzing our everyday tasks, made me help understand the interaction-attention continuum more. Later on, it helped me to better substantiate my design choices.

The preparations of our final user-deployment study took some time, but afterwards it made me realize how important these preparations were. A peripheral interaction is very hard to experience consciously, so wrong interview questions could lead to missing the research goal. Therefore, we considered our user-setup and interview questions very well. In addition, by making use of effort scale, we collected both quantitative and qualitative data to validate our design.

Technology & Realisation

In order to validate our design, a low-fi prototype was made. Since we had very little time, it was decided to fake some sensors and do a Wizard of Oz instead to achieve the desired result during the user-deployment study. By combining a physical prototype, Arduino and Processing we were able to quickly demonstrate our concept in context.

Creativity & Aesthetics

During one of the lectures, a hands-on session was organized to focus on tangible interaction. First, I had some difficulties with generating ideas, but when I started playing with all the different materials ideas came up very quickly. The session helped me quickly generate new ideas and I was able to evaluate its interactions immediately. Finally, we were able to continue with one of the ideas, which led to our final concept.

Due to the tight planning we were forced to realize our prototype within a very short period of time. This meant that some details were not visible enough during the user deployment study. Participants therefore did not experience the interaction as much as we had expected beforehand. This shows that the full development of a prototype with good aesthetics is very important for the results of the study.


Bakker, S., & Niemantsverdriet, K. (2016). The interaction-attention continuum: considering various levels of human attention in interaction design. International Journal of Design, 10(2), 1-14.

Ju, W., & Leifer, L. (2008). The design of implicit interactions: Making interactive systems less obnoxious. Design Issues, 24(3), 72-84.

© 2020 Jesper van Bentum