RE: Ease-of-use: Efficiency vs. Intuitiveness

30 Nov 2004 - 2:17pm
9 years ago
1 reply
426 reads
Steven Streight

What is "intuitive" or "nearly automatic" or "reflex
action" to a geek is not the same as what is such to a

If your boss complains about a web functionality you
designed being "not intuitive enough", does your boss
mean that neophytes may not understand how to use it?

If you think it is sufficiently "intuitive", does this
mean that you, with all your web experience and tech
savvy, can interact with it easily?

If a web site is by designers and for designers, wild
innovation and anti-conventional widgets may be
appropriate, even demanded by such tech users.

But if a web site is for less skilled and less
experienced users, as most probably are, then a
"near-intuitive" interface, one that doesn't require a
steep learning curve, is generally most appropriate.

This is well known. But what we need to remember is
that users, even savvy ones, are in a big hurry.

Very rarely are users in a casual, unrushed, leisurely
mode. They want fast functions, fast information, fast

It's not that users are stupid, so much as that they
are in a big hurry. They race through sites and pages,
as fast as they are skilled in navigation practice.

Nothing is "intuitive" (guessable, automatic) to a
brand new user, who knows nothing about computers or
web sites. Watch one. They sit there dumbfounded.
Scared to even touch anything. But with a little
couching, or by stumbling around, they begin to
acquire skill and knowledge of interface operations,
navigation, error recovery, etc.

As user gain skill and knowledge, they gain in
"intuitive" responses to familiar or similar widgets
and such.

Users begin to expect some continuity between sites.
Very rarely does a new automobile arrive in
dealerships requiring drivers to learn a whole new set
of skills just to operate the car.

Steven Streight
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1 Dec 2004 - 7:10am
Stewart Dean

There's been a lot of wise words on this subject. Stephen's post I think is
totally on the mark!

Correct me if I'm wrong here but there appears to be an agreement that
Efficiency and Intuitiveness are weakly linked. something Efficient can not
be intuitive but require some degree of learning to get the most out of it.

I think in terms of playing the guitar here - it's not that intuitive but
it's a very efficient interface.

Intuitive also doesnt really exist a pure concept but really depends on who
the users are (so the usual 'it depends').

I like the view that novice and experienced users again are a bit of an
illlusion and that we're all intermediates of some kind. I feel mircosoft
any many others get this very wrong so, in my view, their programs are first
time consuming to use with little control and then confusing with very
little help.

So it's a cultural thing at the end of the day? I tend to look outside of
the day to day web interfaces I work on for inspiration here. I occasionaly
play computer games and the WASD keys and moust interface for many first
person games is not intuitive to me. If find drive a car not something I
don't have to think about having learnt it late in life and guitar playing
and touch typing are also things I have learnt and these are the most
efficent interfaces I can think of for those problems.

Does that make sense to others?

Also Stephen - you use one of the same phrases as I do!

"It's not that users are stupid, so much as that they are in a big hurry. "

Also if anyone ever wants to see where learning an interface leads to
astounding efficency it's worth looking at a program called 'Live' by a
company call Ableton. It allows real time reorganistation of music - it
takes some learning but the interface is the best I've ever seen on any bit
of software this side of computer game.

Stewart Dean
User Experience Consultant.

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