Pattern Languages in Interaction Design: Structure and Organization

van Welie, M., & van der Veer, G. (2003). Pattern languages in interaction design: structure and organization. Interact 2003. Retrieved from

With the introduction of patterns in interaction design, investigators of such patterns have begun to focus on the issue organizing them into pattern languages. The article, “Pattern Languages in Interaction Design: Structure and Organization” (Van Welie & Van der Veer, 2003), focuses on a top-down approach of structuring patterns, where high-level problems are broken up into smaller ones that have visible solutions. It also delves into the basic idea of pattern languages, it’s creation, and practical uses in relation to web design.

The importance of organizing patterns within interaction design is related to recognizing specific design problems. For example, if a client wants an e-commerce website created, a designer would identify the functional patterns necessary to fulfill the problem by breaking down the task into smaller problems, or low-level problems. Possible low-level patterns in this case may include registering, shopping cart, or product comparison. By clustering different patterns into larger categories such as “E-commerce”, “Navigation”, or “Searching”, a pattern language is created, allowing designer to identify such solutions more easily. In addition, tools that can help with the creation of pattern languages will allow designers to accomplish the task more quickly, increasing a designer’s productivity without sacrificing efficiency. The relevance to my own studies comes from a designing aspect. Time is money, therefore, decreasing the amount of time to accomplish a task is significant and possible through this technique of pattern languages.

This article is an analysis of previously proposed techniques on pattern languages. It uses past information on patterns and suggests that not only the creation of pattern languages is important, but that the creation of tools to assist with it is the next step. Personally, I thought the article was well structured and did well in using examples to explain their reasoning. The article also covered different issues, such as mentioning that every type of designer would have a different way of defining a certain language. For example, a software engineer and a visual designer may organize different patterns into a pattern language, yet still call the pattern language by a similar name. This would be an important aspect to consider when creating a tool to aid in pattern language creation. Overall, the authors did well in analyzing past research and coming up with their own idea to add to the greater body of knowledge in interactive design patterns.

Due to the possibility of pattern language becoming one of the “most effective design knowledge management tools available” (Van Welie & Van der Veer, 2003), I believe this to be a relatively important article to consider, however, it is likely not the only one. Pattern language tools might have gone further in development in recent years, and finding more timely research might be more beneficial. Regardless, the structure and explanations in this article was well done and may be helpful for a basic understanding of patterns and possible ways of categorizing them.


6 thoughts on “Pattern Languages in Interaction Design: Structure and Organization

    • From what I can tell, everyone can make their own “pattern language” that best fits them. It’s kind of like a defined standard on what should be included when trying to do a task.

      Personally, I just try to use standards in what I see from example work, so I wouldn’t say I follow a defined pattern. Although I can see the benefits of doing so.

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  2. Is this an article analysis, or just notes on an article you read? If an article analysis for class, please indicate this in the title, and by tagging & categorizing the post as “Article Analysis.” For an article analysis, this is not empirical research, nor is it related to social media, as far as I can tell. Please remember those requirements.

    • Don’t worry Dr. V, this is under my CGT501 category, as is the article before it, and not meant to be anything more than supplement material to research done. I’d like to gear my research toward Interactive Design, but wanted a better understanding of what that would entail. I also understand that this is not empirical research.

      Sorry to have confused you by posting this!

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