In our research, weve discovered that there are two conditions where users will tell you an interface seems intuitive to them. It only takes meeting one of the two conditions to get the user to tell you the design is intuitive. When neither condition is met, the same user will likely complain that the interface feels unintuitive.
Both the current knowledge point and the target knowledge point are identical. When the user walks up to the design, they know everything they need to operate it and complete their objective.
The current knowledge point and the target knowledge point are separate, but the user is completely unaware the design is helping them bridge the gap. The user is being trained, but in a way that seems natural.
The biggest challenge in making a design seem intuitive to users is learning where the current and target knowledge points are. What do users already know and what do they need to know? To build intuitive interfaces, answering these two questions is critical.
For identifying the users current knowledge, we favor field studies. Watching potential users, in their own environments, working with their normal set of tools, and facing their daily challenges, gives us tremendous insight in what knowledge they will have and where the upper bounds are. Teams receive a wealth of valuable information with every site visit.
For identifying necessary target knowledge for important tasks, usability testing is a favorite technique of ours. When we sit users in front of a design, the knowledge gap becomes instantly visible.