Learning to Use Our Intuition in Design Every Day
I exist by feeling, like a blind octopus or some kind of superterranean mole, sensing my way to work and navigating through my career. I tell time by how late or early in the day it feels. I design my way through problems by working until things feel right, or, as some would say, by intuition.
Design intuition is the culmination of experience, transformed into a hard-to-describe sense of how something ought to be.
With intuition, many points of information can be collected, grouped, sorted, and solved for in an instant. It’s a vector that leads from the present to the future, guiding our path from experience into the unknown.
Instinct is also tough to talk about. It’s uncomfortable and unsatisfying to sift through “why.” But if intuition is something I have a hard time dissecting, how can I be sure of its effectiveness?
IMHO, intuition needs some checks and balances. And because most of us don’t work on our own and must explain our process to others, it also needs a language beyond squeaks or grunts. So, how do we get there? What logical structures can we use to nudge and guide our intuition and give others confidence in our solutions? Here are some principals we rely on at Mavenlink, which keeps us/me on track and building what needs to be built … at the speed of intuition.
To give your intuition a foundation, frame a problem as best you can as early as possible. It often takes time for the scope of a problem to come into focus, but a starting place prompts everyone involved to recall what they know and what they don’t know — and understand what to research. For more on this, see Digging Into User Feedback, an interesting take on qualifying research that looks at the questions behind the questions. Some methodology on proper scoping can be found in the article Minimum Viable Dessert.
Making use of UI/UX design patterns helps you, as a designer, maintain consistency, and allows your users to reuse knowledge of the systems you’ve already established. When a new problem crops up, you can quickly draw parallels with problems you’ve already solved and determine whether a similar solution can be used or something totally new needs to be created. By making these comparisons, you’re effectively checking your intuition against a standard you already trust, using a language you already speak. To dive into the “why” and “how,” check out Why Good Product Design Needs Good Patterns.
Not everything can be patternized or scoped from the start. Besides, what fun would that be? Ultimately, everything is done for the user, so communicating with that user throughout the design process helps you recalibrate your intuition and validate your solutions. For some practical tips, check out User Interviews, The Heart of the Design Process.
Our instincts are natural, fast, and based on the sum of information we’ve collected over our career and throughout our lives. By sticking to the scope of a project, cross referencing with established patterns, and running the solution by your users, you can take advantage of your intuition with justified confidence. You’ll also enjoy communicating your solutions more clearly, and increase the odds that your solution is solving the right problem in the first place. Welcome to designing Thoughtfeely.
To read more about why we need a format for validating our intuition check out Design Thoughtfeely: Pitfalls of Intuition.
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