Jared Spool shares in his article “What Makes a Design Seem ‘Intuitive’?” a conceptual model which he calls the Knowledge-Gap between what users currently know and what they need to know in order to perceive a user interface as intuitive.
The Knowledge Gap
The distance between current knowledge and target knowledge has a technical name: “The Gap”. (Subsequently, an entire chain of clothing stores was named after it!)
The Knowledge Gap is where design happens. We don’t need to design to the left of current knowledge point, because it’s all stuff the user already knows. And we don’t need to design stuff to the right of the target knowledge point, since the user won’t be needing that information (for this task, at least). We only need to design the interface for the space in between current knowledge and target knowledge. (See a picture of the Knowledge Gap here: )
Users can complete their objective when current knowledge equals target knowledge. There are two ways this can happen. You can train the user, thereby increasing their current knowledge, until they know everything they need to know. Or, you can reduce the knowledge necessary, by making the interface easier, until target knowledge only requires the information the user already has. In fact, most good design involves both: users are trained (through explanatory text and other devices) while the designer reduces complexity, reducing the gap distance from both directions.
Not groundbreaking, but a nice visualization and explanation.
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