Greg Gannicott’s Blog

Intuitive UI Design Examples

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on March 15, 2009

I’m not sure whether there’s actually a name for this, but until someone suggests otherwise I’ll refer to it as ‘Intuitive Design’. For me, what that represents is when a developer almost pre-empts the way you’re going to subconsciously use something by coding for non obvious situations (catchy, no?).

They must think to themselves “I think the user is going to try and do x because s/he thinks it should work that way.”, and I really like it when they do that.

I came across an example over the weekend by Microsoft of all people in Windows Messenger of all applications.

I wanted to send a screenshot to a mate using Messenger. Usually what I do is:

  • press the Print Screen key
  • open up Paint
  • ctrl+v to paste my screenshot
  • Save it off
  • Locate the file using Explorer
  • Drag it on to the chat window with my mate (an example of intuitive design in fact) and it sends the file (that’s providing the app doesn’t get too clever for its own good and decide on my mate’s behalf that he doesn’t really want to risk opening it – it does my head in when MS takes that approach!).

On this occasion though, without really thinking I:

  • pressed the Print Screen key
  • in the chat window, hit Ctrl+V to paste and as if by magic it sent the screenshot as a file to my mate.

Amazing (in a non-jesus changing water in to wine kind of way)! Over time that could be a time-saver, and to me and my subconscious self makes perfect sense.

So hats off to the MS developer who did that.

Another example is between iTunes and Winamp.

Until recently, I’d have Winamp open at all times on the 2nd monitor. To begin with I use to drag files from Explorer on to Winamp and placed it in the right place on the Playlist. Winamp knew what to do with this content being dragged in (another minor example).

Soon after buying an iPod – and as a result – starting rating things in iTunes, I began to listen to music based on those ratings. Not in a smart-playlist kind of way, but in a “Lets look at this band and pick a song I rated highly/haven’t rated” kind of way.

I dragged the song from iTunes and on to Winamp and quite surprisingly, Winamp lapped it up and added the song the playlist.

For me, that’s another great example of pre-empting what I want to do and how my subconscious self thinks it should be done.

I think this is one area where Web Apps show their (lack-of) age. It will be a while yet before one web app can talk to another without the user having to give it much thought. It will happen though, I don’t doubt it.

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