Part 2

4.0 Using Intuition in Interface Design

The Oxford Dictionary describes intuition as an

“immediate apprehension by the mind without the intervention of reasoning. Immediate insight. Spiritual insight or perception.”1

This definition implies that intuition is a sense, which can be likened to seeing and hearing. This sense is instantaneous and usually, happens in subconsciousness. it is, however, quite difficult to say exactly what intuitions are.

There is something very human about simplicity even though processes in the brain are often extremely complex, even to the point that it is not fully understood by modern science. It is when interfaces mimic human behaviour, they allow people to intuit and thus become simpler. In Dr Sam Vaknin’s book ‘lntuition’ he states which “It is often preceded by periods of frustration, dead ends, failures, and blind alleys in one’s work.” So if this is true, then how can intuition be used to bring to bring better and more coherent interface design?

Don Norman has written an interesting critique called “Human-Centered Design Considered Harmful”, here tries to provoke thought on the currently accepted trends in design.

Jeff Han: Unveiling the genius of multi-touch interface design, where he shows a scalable simple, multi-touch, multi-user screen interface.

Watching TED talk from David Pogue: When it comes to tech, simplicity sells. He’s highlighting the decline of some manufacturer’s commitment to user-friendly software.

David Pogue puts forward a comical and informative talk about interface design, he describes how windows have a complex interface with his theory he calls ‘the software upgrade paradox’ which is if you improve interface enough times you eventually end up ruining it. An example of this would be the IGN website1 one of the top computer gaming site, where they have recently gone through a few changes with a redesign on their website. New budgets and advertising have come at the cost of simplicity. Before on the top bar, you would have a direct link to the page you wanted to go to, for example, say you wanted the DS page you would simply click the DS link. Now they have broken the site down into so many categories and added new features to the site raising the user’s tab count forcing the to go through more stages to complete a simple task.

Simplicity does not mean the absence of features, users love features. Simply removing features from your interface design is the relatively easy way to simplicity. Keeping powerful functionality but making it easier to use is a much harder task.

Palm are a great example of this, the original Palm software team had these simple four design guidelines:

‘IGN, 2008
Less is more . Avoid adding features . ‘Strive for fewer steps
Simplicity is better than complexity

Rob Haitani, one of the primary designers of the Palm interface, provided an analogy that can be used even today in designing modern applications that have the freedom of using many more pixels than their tiny predecessor.1

Here he is talking about how the interface and the human mind are not communicating well. The interface thinks like a computer and not like a human, this is where the problems begin. To open a new document you have to first go to file, new then instead of select the document you have to tell the computer what type of document you want. A human thinking would just put the new document button for the user to simply click once and not have so many redundant features.

‘Simplicity’ in this context is not the right word. Not all that is simple has quality is attractive and consequently people buy it. I think the word ‘essential’ much more appropriate.