You Need Users With Supernatural Power for an Intuitive Interface
“It has to be very intuitive for the users to use our app.”
I’ve heard that so many times when a bunch of people were designing an app. Most of them couldn’t explain how to make it intuitive, they just know that ‘to be intuitive’ is a good thing in user experience, since it’s somehow related to the ease-of-use.
So what does intuitive actually mean?
If you said it’s when users know what to do with the interface the moment they use the app for the first time, then you’re completely wrong. Unless they have supernatural power, users don’t know what to do, they just assume something will work as they expected to be. This expectation comes from their past experiences with another interface that looks similar with the new one.
This is what intuitive really means: it’s designed to be familiar. The app that’s intuitive, is designed to be familiar. That’s why Google+ looks similar to Facebook (see this side-by-side comparison). That’s why WhatsApp on iPhone looks similar with the native messaging app, and a lot more examples of how apps have similar look and behavior.
I suggest that we replace the word “intuitive” with the word “familiar” (or sometimes “old hat”) in informal HCI discourse. HCI professionals might prefer another phrase:
Intuitive = uses readily transferred, existing skills.
If we’re going further into human brain, to explain why having a familiar interface is good, and not for the sake of being a copy cat, it’s because when something happens as you would expect it to be, a cell called dopamine neurons secrete a little burst of enjoyment, it makes you happy, thus giving you a good feeling. But if something happens differently than you expected it to be, your dopamine neurons decrease the firing rate, sending a prediction-error signal, and it makes you upset because your prediction was wrong.
Creating a new and innovative interface/interaction is good, but it might make users feel upset, especially if they have to learn to use your interface to interact with the core service that you provide. Also remember that users are using a lot of apps on their devices, and most of them have similar interfaces. Users don’t have time and are too busy to learn new interface.
My suggestion would be: adapt a familiar interface and help users to use your core service. If users hardly use your interface, the chances are they’ll never reach your core service.