Explaining Intuition Factors in UX Design

What Are Intuition Factors, And What Role Do They Play In UX Design?


There are many different aspects of the User Experience Design process. In fact, the terminology of User Experience Design and what it encompasses is often debated.

Regardless of what specific elements are involved in UX for software development, there is a design challenge that needs a solution. There is always a point in the decision making process where the designer must consider using data or educated estimations when designing software. These educated guesses of right or wrong when it comes to design are dictated by what can be called Intuition Factors.

What Are Intuition Factors?

User interface design is a combination of data collected from user testing and research and intuition. So, one part data and one part intuition.

Two things to note:

  1. Intuition Factors relate to what the designer believes is intuitive to the user, not necessarily the designer’s own intuition.
  2. Intuition is subconscious, we intuitively perform tasks because it feels second nature to us.

Think about the psychological elements of nature vs nurture; we either learn something gradually or instinctively know how to do it.

To bring clarity to the term, here are two relevant dictionary definitions:




using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive.




the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.

One Part Data

A/B testing, usability standards, human interface guidelines and user research can give us direct answers to design questions. For example, if 80% of users understand that the “Save” button at the top right of the screen saves the data they have entered on a form, we can successfully say that the positioning is usable.

In many cases, when killer applications implement certain user interface elements, we eventually see these become a standard. In this example, the standard is that buttons of advancement are positioned at the top right (e.g., Save, Done, Continue). Buttons of regression are positioned at the top left (Cancel, Back).

One Part Intuition

If data does not give us a clear answer, we resort to what we feel will be intuitive to the user. The following are several different thought processes the designer will go through to create an interface that is believed to be intuitive to the user.

  • Personal Instinct: what seems right to me as a designer?
  • Experience Driven: what has been successful in the past?
  • Learned Usability: what has become a standard within the software user base?
  • Perceived Usability: what do I think the user will do in this scenario?

These factors contribute to precisely why a designer believes the approach used is correct.

The approach can later be tested and become a data point.

Let’s Take A Closer Look

Personal Instinct is the original gut feeling that a designer gets. It’s the same gut feeling that a graphic designer might get when something seems to be a few pixels misaligned. Or, the same feeling a front­end developer gets when divs are out of place. In general, if something seems right from the designer’s point of view, this is the justification.

However, a lot of times the gut feeling is fueled by things like experiences the designer might have had in the past, for example using an interface that has been successful in past projects or tests. This is the Experience Driven Intuition Factor.

When we see success stories in regards to user interface solutions, they can become standards. Before they become explicit standards, they need to be common enough to the user that they can be understood. These Learned Usability Standards may or may not make it into the official human interface guidelines, but they become standards none­the­less.

The final intuition factor ties the former elements together. What will the user perceive the interface element as? Better yet, what do I, as a designer, think that the user will do? This is the Perceived Usability Intuition Factor.

The Intuition Factors support each other in some such way. Designers will use Intuition Factors to solve problems when he or she is lacking sufficient data.

The decision-making process of a designer relies on many aspects. Intuition Factors are at the top layer of the process that allows a designer to strategically analyse what can be intuitive to the user. If you are a designer seeking ways to solve problems and you lack the sufficient data, Intuition Factors can help solve these problems with informed decisions.

What You Should Do Now

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Alex Shirazi

Contributer to the CareerFoundry Blog

Alex Shirazi is the founder of Phlint, a mobile development firm located in Silicon Valley. Since 2005 Phlint has been working with both small and large businesses in the technology and mobile space specializing in UX-focused software development. Prior to moving to the Silicon Valley area, Alex studied advertising and design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.