RE: (Summary) Ease-of-use: Efficiency vs Intuitiveness

28 Nov 2004 - 6:43pm
10 years ago
1 reply
1103 reads
Elizabeth Bacon

Hey group,

For the sake of summating this interesting thread: I'm seeing this
conversation add some important clarifications about the "ease-of-use"
indices of "efficiency" and "intuitiveness".

Since we probably don't have monkeys for users, "efficiency" is best
assessed in terms of effectiveness: measuring how well the product meets the
user's goals. Goals are, of course, defined for a specific user, scenario
and context.

"Intuitiveness" can be assessed by measuring the product's learnability or
familiarity: measuring how quickly the product's usage was grasped by
initial users. "Intuitiveness", however, can also be assessed by seeing
whether the application's affordances don't require explication (and, dare I
say, are even fun or pleasurable). Further, "intuitiveness" can also be
studied as a somewhat different metric for long-term users, and people
interacting with applications of different postures such as sovereign or
transient. There are doubtless more ways to measure intuitiveness not yet

It truly doesn't seem that these two indices are opposing forces, or somehow
in contradiction. However, each system design may emphasize one or the other
aspect more within its own set of requirements. This balance, as a key
design constraint, is a factor to identify when judging an interactive
product's success in terms of its usability.

(And, on a personal note, I know that there is absolutely a way with
powerful interaction design tools and methods to develop a solution that
never sacrifices one for the other!) As someone trying to develop product
success indices at my company for complex software, I also support Josh's
point that "intuitiveness" is too vague a term to be useful in practice.
"Efficiency" is generally well understood as a quantitatively-obtainable
metric, but breaking intuitiveness down into more meaningful elements seems



28 Nov 2004 - 8:56pm
Dan Saffer

On Nov 28, 2004, at 7:43 PM, Elizabeth Bacon wrote:

> "efficiency" is best
> assessed in terms of effectiveness: measuring how well the product
> meets the
> user's goals.

Why would we want to vary from the term as it is commonly used though?
Maybe I'm dense, but I see a gap between effective (meeting user goals)
and efficient (doing so with the smallest expenditure of user effort).
They aren't the same thing and can be at odds. As Lada pointed out, a
system can be effective without being efficient.


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