Last night while my friend Tracy and I were walking to the local brewery, she asked me what […]

Last night while my friend Tracy and I were walking to the local brewery, she asked me what I thought the difference between intuition and instinct was. I blurted out a half-baked idea, we went back and forth and came up with:

Instinctive: built into the body, from our animal brain
Intuitive: understood by the brain’s subconscious, informed by past experience.

They look the same when you see them in play: a sudden and swift apparently thought-free action. Yet intuitive action is not thought free, it is based on experience.

I bring this up because “Intuitive” is a an objective of many pieces of software and websites. And it’s important to realize the best way to achieve intuitable interfaces is to pull from design principles and previous design standards. Because these are what your users have in their experience.

Something I’ve done in the past is replacing a competitive review with a best-practices review, in which one looks at other bits of software/websites the projected userbase is familiar with to harvest patterns and best solutions.

So let’s say I was designing a bookstore for accountants. I might look at Amazon, but I might also look at excel and quicken.

And because the universe is every obliging, I found this article, INTUITIVE EQUALS FAMILIAR, in my inbox this a.m. from a list I’m on.

So this brings me to another cool thing we talked about– the unlearnable interface. Have you ever used a program where you kept making the same damn mistake over and over again? Take a closer look. You’ll probably discover that the designer of the program has gone contrary to principles or standards…

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    I love Macromedia products, but those products tend to have “unlearnable interfaces,” meaning that upon successfully completing a task, it is incredibly difficult to repeat that action a few days later. To add this problem, interfaces across these products to tend vary. So for software companies out there that have products that are supposed to be used together (Adobe, Macromedia, Microsoft all come to mind), it’s important to have consistent UI across apps to help create intuitive interfaces.

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