To achieve the most intuitive user interface solutions, the gap between the user’s current knowledge level and the minimum knowledge level needed to complete a given task must be bridged as quickly and easily as possible. The biggest key to achieving this is discovering end users’ current understanding of similar systems. Just as important is determining the necessary amount of understanding needed to perform the system’s core tasks. What do users already know and what do they need to know. To build intuitive interfaces, answering these two questions is of the utmost importance.
For identifying the user’s current knowledge, user research and field studies can accomplish a lot. Observing potential users in their own environments, working with their current systems and facing their daily obstacles, provides invaluable insight. We learn what level of knowledge they will have and where pain points may reside. An abundance of valuable information is gained with every study.
On the other end, usability testing is perfect for identifying the minimum level of understanding needed for core tasks. When end users interact with a prototype of the UI system, the areas most easily understood and those which require guidance become instantly visible. Documenting the knowledge users required to complete tasks during the test can provide guidance in revisions and additional iterations.
User Research and Usability Testing can be time consuming and can sometimes require an sizeable investment of financial resources. However, if an intuitive user interface is the goal, the knowledge gained through both is imperative.