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Intuitive Design: Creating a User-Focused Product

When conceptualizing and creating a product, intuitive design is a primary concern for many designers looking to optimize ease of use. While the concept is not new, it’s become increasingly important for product creators to keep in mind as the market becomes saturated with a range of offerings in the same spaces. With the average app losing a reported 77% of Daily Active Users within the first three days of installation, the details are important to consider to give your product the best chance of success.

Intuitive design broadly refers to a product that is easy for users to navigate. From first touch to the most advanced features, a product with a flow that makes sense is far more likely to be revisited by users than one that is complicated to understand. There’s no set definition of what an intuitive design should look like—it depends on the product and its competitors for context—but if it results in an experience that is immediately comfortable for the user, it can be called intuitive.

What Makes an Intuitive Design?

There are several typical components of a product that help build an intuitive experience. Since design is very much about the whole over the part, none of them work alone. Each piece is connected, and without one it becomes difficult for the rest to function intuitively. 

  • The onboarding process is perhaps the single biggest marker of if a product is easy to use. The more complicated the product, the more strenuous its onboarding process. Conversely, a well-thought out and logical design necessitates far less training for the user. 
  • Discoverability, the opportunity for a user to discover features on their own even without going through a set tutorial, makes for a much more comfortable feel. The product becomes approachable, and there is no worry that something important will be forgotten that limits the user’s ability to employ it. 
  • Affordance refers to the visual cues that a user gets, and the predictability that a certain action will do what you would expect it to. Clicking a bell icon, for example, is in all likelihood a way to check notifications, while a chat bubble will probably lead the user to their messages. These little details help the user feel at home in the product and go a long way in creating an intuitive experience. 
  • Expectation and efficiency are also important to the user. The former means that an action produces the expected result (think tapping a “+” symbol and a new chat being opened in Slack), while the latter refers to the overall ease of a certain task (like Gmail’s feature that suggests ends to your sentences as you type them). 

These qualities are just a few examples of what makes a product intuitive, and all of them help users feel like an app, service, or product belongs in their daily routine. 

Who is Responsible for Creating an Intuitive Product?

Ensuring intuitive design falls on both the design team and the product manager to execute. While the design team is largely in charge of the interface components that make up the experience, product managers act as advisers that guide the final decisions. They also have access to research and data that equips them with the knowledge necessary to build a product that hits their target market and can tailor the intuitiveness of the experience to best suit their needs.

Tap into user feedback and constant user testing as you develop to make sure you’re getting closer to your goals and creating the experience that you want to achieve. A design-focused process gives space for you to prioritize the user and their journey and optimize it as much as possible, helping your product become a must-use for its audience. 

Check out Chet’s Principles of Human-Centered Design microcourse for more great resources on how to design with the user in mind. 

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