How to Support Designers in Getting Hold of the Immaterial Material of Software

When designing novel GUI controls, interaction designers are challenged by the “immaterial” materiality of the digital domain; they lack tools that effectively support a reflecting conversation with the material of software as they attempt to conceive, refine, and communicate their ideas. To investigate this situation, we conducted two participatory design workshops. In the first workshop, focused on conceiving, we observed that designers want to invent controls by exploring gestures, context, and examples. In the second workshop, on refining and communicating, designers proposed tools that could refine movement, document context through usage scenarios, and support the use of examples. In this workshop they struggled to effectively communicate their ideas for developers because their ideas had not been fully explored. In reflecting on this struggle, we began to see an opportunity for the output of a design tool to be a boundary object that would allow for an ongoing conversation between the design and the material of software, in which the developer acts as a mediator for software.