Are the software tools you use as intuitive as they could be? Or does using it eat up more time than necessary? Intuitive software design combines art and science to save us both time and mental stress.
Do you remember, when you used a computer for the first time? How long did it take you to understand the basics of how to handle it?
For most of us, it took a while to get to grips with. Because at the time, computers required a lot of technical know-how to operate effectively.
Even today, it can be hard to work into a new program, for instance professional and specialized software.
Luckily, the emphasis on better user experience and intuitive software design began to increase in the recent years, shortening the time we need to get used to them.
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The whole point of intuitive software is to make it easy for us to enjoy working with the program.
This is great for us, because everyone is better at the things they like doing.
The reasons for us to like intuitive software design are that:
Intuitive software at its best might even completely erase the need for training and is guaranteed to provide a much less steep learning curve.
If we choose tools wisely, we can benefit from all the advantages intuitive design makes possible.
In this one, I’ll explain how exactly we can benefit from intuitive software design at work.
User experience designers refer to the gap between your current knowledge level when you first encounter a software application, and the target knowledge level that you need to in order to use the software effectively.
The difference between current knowledge and target knowledge is known as the Knowledge Gap, which good UX design aims to bridge.
There are two main ways to achieve this:
Most good UX designers aim to combine both approaches.
If software is intuitive, we should be able to start using it right off the bat, when starting it for the first time.
Such apps and or software tools should be easy to understand, use and update, with the result that we have fun using them instead of getting frustrated after a while.
We’ll have more confidence in the software, if it does what we want it to do without much effort on our part.
Hand in hand with all of that comes the benefit of a higher work productivity.
In addition, occasional errors and bugs won’t bother us as much as with a program that frustrates us right from the start.
GUIs mostly use symbols found in the analogue world. If I just look at the program I’m writing in right now, there’s a magnifying glass, an eraser, a folder, scissors and the list goes on.
Learned from an early age, everybody knows what these things are used for in the real world and thus what they should do in the program. Others are self-explanatory – most of the time.
Admittedly, when it gets to the details the implied writing program still is confusing sometimes.
But you got the point, right?
Intuitive design uses well-known elements to prevent unnecessary learning processes.
To recognize intuitive software, you might want to know which aspects contribute to intuitiveness:
This is the first impression you get from a program. It should be easy to install and, in the future process, also easy to update.
If the installation process is frustrating or overly complicated, that’s usually not a good sign.
The software should meet the expectations and conventions about how an application works and reacts to your actions.
When you first open the software, can you tell what all the icons mean? Is it acting predictable?
If that’s not the case, you can anticipate to spend the first hours of using it with research on how make the tool do what you want it to do.
Is there a tutorial that explains everything that’s not obvious?
The first software that had been developed was the opposite of intuitive, using command lines to interact. It could barely be used if you didn’t know at least some basics of coding yourself.
Computers only had their breakthrough, when graphic user interfaces allowed the average person to use them.
It was that time, when Apple developed a GUI, implementing icons and multiple windows to work with.
That’s why the Macintosh was the most successful PC at the time, due to its never before seen accessibility for users without specialist technical knowledge.
And that set a direction for the future.
You could say software has been going through an evolutionary process that eliminates user-unfriendly tools.
Programs that are not convenient to use will be abandoned by users, sooner or later, because you simply can’t work with them efficiently.
At the moment, voice-driven interfaces seem to be the next big thing in interface design – the big development houses have been working on those for quite a time already.
Imagine talking to your computer like Michael Knight did to KITT – how cool would that be?
The ability to control your car with your voice will surely contribute to more safety in traffic and in fact, systems to control some aspects of your car by voice already exist and are being improved.
Also, there are systems like Amazon Echo that let you control your smart home in a similar fashion.
When the technology is finally ready to actually be used in a work environment, it might save a lot of time, e.g. by eliminating the need to type on your keyboard.
I’m sure, intuitive design holds many surprises for us that were only Sci-Fi dreams some years ago.
Software design has already come a long way since the early days of computers. Modern GUIs make the user experience more enjoyable than ever, fortunately, and therefore promote fun and productivity, while reducing stress and frustration.
Thanks to the evolution of user interfaces, user-unfriendly programs are sieved out and there are more intuitive kinds of interfaces to come in the future.
The well-recognized patterns and concepts we talked about in this article might someday even be outdated – do today’s children still know, that the saving symbol, the diskette, is or was a real thing? I highly doubt it.
Anyway, what would you like to see in the future of intuitive design?
Share your ideas with us in the comment section below.
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