What is Intuitive? (was Re: Usability)

Subject: What is Intuitive? (was Re: Usability)
From: David Blyth <dblyth -at- QUALCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996 12:36:57 -0700

To quote Jared Spool:

>There is nothing about computers that are intuitive.

In this case, there is nothing intuitive about swinging a stone axe
or throwing a spear.

>(Actually, there are those that argue that reproduction is a learned skill.)

Damn! No wonder my ancestors died out. Now all we have to do is
tell this to the Chinese.....

>User interfaces communicate. They provide clues that are essential
>to the operation. When users talk about interfaces not being
>intuitive, in our research, they are always refering to clues being
>missing. You add the tools, the interfaces become more intuitive.
>But you haven't changed the essence of the interface, you've only
>changed the clues.

I agree. But this only means that the definition of 'intuitive'
is changing. Is the interface simple to understand?

>Software doesn't need an user interface.

Oh yeah, sure (wink, wink). It's perfectly simple to use software
without an interface. Anyone can do that.

>For instance, UNIX doesn't have one.

FYI, it's called a "shell".

>You couldn't sit a mortal being in front of a UNIX system
>and expect them to "intuit" anything.

I always knew that I wasn't mortal. Thanks for the confirmation!

>They couldn't accomplish a thing.

The fact that UNIX isn't easy to learn is not the same as saying
that UNIX doesn't have an interface. What one normally means is that
the UNIX interface isn't easy to learn. Some might even say that
it's not terribly intuitive....

>There is nothing intuitive about computer interfaces -- ever.

Then there's nothing intuitive about swinging a rock. The question
is: does it easily connect to something else that I know how to do?

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