Good list of qualities!
Pat Cheung
21

I would disagree with “intuitive” as a useful descriptor. Mostly because we don’t use the word to mean what the word means. Intuitive is primarily used to mean “works the way I expect it to”. I’ve often heard the phrase “The only intuitive interface is the nipple, all else is learned”. For the most part it is true (some infants do have to “learn” it, thus isn’t fully accurate).

At best “intuitive” means “behaves like something I already know”. There is nothing particularly intuitive about placing, for example, the “File” menu in the window versus in a bar at the top of the desktop. Whether you feel one to be intuitive versus the other will depend on which one you “grew up with” — the one you have the most experience with.

Consider controlling a rocketship. Joystick, wheel and pedal, computer panel, keyboard? In truth you could use any of those to effectively and efficiently do it. Which is intuitive? Whatever you have the most familiarity with, most likely.

To show the impedance of “intuitive”, take a fixed wing aircraft (airplane) pilot and teach them to fly a rotary-wing one (helicopter). Now take someone who doesn’t know how to fly an airplane and teach them to fly a helicopter. The one who doesn’t know how to fly at all will learn to fly a helicopter significantly faster. The inverse is also more often true than not. The “interface” is vastly different despite common gauges and components, and what one considers intuitive is really “what I learned” — and it can impede learning something else.

This is one reason I prefer simple to intuitive. For me simple is the amount of moving parts, the number of things to learn to understand the tool, code, concept, or interface.

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