August 16, 2012

What we’re actually doing when interacting with an intuitive’ interface

I’ve become pretty cheesed off with the term intuitive’, as in this shiny touch interface is so intuitive’.

I get to observe my 87-year old intelligent-but-half-blind mother negotiating web pages and desktop applications. Her efforts to learn the conventions of modern GUI interaction have shown me that what us techies consider the application of intuition is, in fact, the application of a rich set of contradictory heuristics about visually subtle and temporally fleeting graphical cues.

There is absolutely no consistency at all to GUI design - that’s why, when we’re confronted with something that causes those heuristics to break, we’re lost. Right-click? Apple-click? Double-click? Pinch-to-zoom? Swipe-to-dismiss? I don’t think any of us figured those out for ourselves, much as we’d like to think we did.

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