How to Tap into the Constellation of Assumptions
In the quest to provide users with the best possible experience, a key priority for all UX designers is to make their products as ‘intuitive’ as possible.
The term ‘intuitive’ has been adopted by UX designers to refer to products which require little mental exertion from users and, thereby, are easy to use, navigate and understand. However, using ‘intuitive’ in this way can be problematic. It can mask the real reason for why such designs require little cognitive effort from their users.
The term ‘intuitive’ may conger up the notion that a design is able to tap in to the natural instincts of its users. However, this is misleading. For instance, no one is born with the knowledge or expectation that the search bar of a webpage will appear towards the top of the screen.
Instead, ‘intuitive’ design taps into the constellation of assumptions, preferences, habits, learned behaviours, prejudgements, actions and expectations which have developed both consciously and unconsciously from their past experiences as a user. Indeed, this has led UX designers to call for ‘intuitive’ design to be relabelled ‘recognizable’ design. Yet, to abandon the term ‘intuitive’ in favour ‘recognizable’ would downplay the importance of cognitive ease which is crucial to the user experience.
However, does this then mean that ‘intuitive’ design is inevitably just the perpetuation of design details familiar to the user? No.
Whilst is it true that many ‘intuitive’ UX designs do just simply reflect the learned habits, assumption and expectations of users, good ‘intuitive’ UX design does much more.
Good ‘intuitive’ UX design is innovated albeit in a very particular way. It takes users existing constellation of assumptions, preferences, habits, etc., and détournes them. That is to say, it reroutes them, it hijacks them. It attempts to arrange them in new and novel ways. It uses them as the foundations for integrating innovative elements into a design. If successful, over time these innovations themselves come to inform what is considered ‘intuitive’. Consequently, ‘intuitive’ design is continually evolving; taking familiar design elements and blending them with fresh approaches.
Author: Adrian Paylor
© 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited