Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Convention vs. Intuitive Interface Design

July 7, 2010 by · 29 Comments 

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I was at a conference yesterday that brought up the issue of user interfaces in next generation web services and TV @home services.

The key hurdle many people identified during the Q&A was the issue of how to get the average normal user to ‘get’ the interface and all the new features that designers were building into the services.

The topic of convention vs. intutive design came up. Effectively, if I am used to seeing a specific type of interface (iTunes, for example) then if a competing music service comes by with a whole new  ‘user-optimized experience’ that goes against the vast majority of user’s perception of convention (iTunes) does it ‘fail’ because it isn’t intuitive or because it wasn’t convention?

Let’s think about that for a sec.

If my mother ( a totally new user) were to be using a music service for the first time, then a user-experience optimized design would be best.. but, if I were targeted as a new customer of a new music service, then a service that would target my established convention of search, play, pause, etc would be best…

To some extent, this brings up the interesting question about whether or not a site should be designed according to convention or ‘intuitive design’. Well, I’d venture to say that if the site will be offereing an entirely new service that is new for everyone, including early adopters, by all means, go to town on interface studies…

However, if the service is, say, a new music listening client, games client, etc then abiding by convention for the first wave of users is probably a better bet. This doesn’t mean, don’t innovate, it just means if the play button is triangle, don’t be messing with the triangle… Whilst abiding by convention, you can still innovate though. Build in metrics that allow you to slowly optimize quirks that were set forth by the early creators of the convention, but without ‘shocking’ the user base. Hire someone that can help you better optimize the key issues people have with competing services, or think through which attributes of your service are worth highlighting.

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents on the subject since I’m neither an expert in the field nor ever designed anything other than a gadget website.

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