Human-Centered Instinctive Design (HCID) - I use this combination of words a lot when talking about user experience design. What is it and what does it mean? It's actually something that I made up so its ok if it is not familiar. In simple terms it is a high level methodology for designing user experiences that is just better.
Problems with the state of design.
There are a few major problems with user experience design these days. For starters, there is no methodology to it, there is no rhyme to the reason. Most, if not all design decisions are based around assumptions as to what the user needs along with a strong emphasis on aesthetics. In most cases the user experience is based solely around aesthetics, lacking any real experience at all. Sometimes this is caused by ignorance, the contractee doesn't realize they need to hire a user experience designer on top of their graphic designer, or the graphic designer believes that they are a user experience designer. In most cases, graphic designers aren't user experience designers and it is necessary to hire them separately.
Another problem with the current state of design is the fact that the internet is largely facsimiles of current design trends. Because designers are instinctively copiers you will see trends in application and web design duplicated and regurgitated with no regard for thought on why they are designing putting things where they are. They have no regard for the end-user, only cashing checks and moving on.
Generally speaking, this lack of methodology and reliance on aesthetics and stolen trends is why the Internet and app stores see such a high number of content and such a low number of them being used.
The App Store has over a million apps, but 600,000 of those have never been downloaded. I'd be willing to say that 99% of what remains has been downloaded once and deleted, leaving only 1% of the million actually being used regularly, probably less. The same goes with the Internet. There is something like 300,000 new websites going up every hour. Only 1% of them will ever be used or remotely successful.
Part of the problem is due to dicovery. Google is antiquated in its means to deliver a true doorway to relevant content and so are the app stores.
HCID to the rescue!
Ignoring that obvious problem let's consider how to solve the problem of death by design using HCID. Human-Centered Instinctive Design is a methodology. It's a thought process that I came up with while working in Artificial Intelligence. A lot of AI relies on algorithms to make decisions. These algorithms are made in such way where you provide all of the decisions that an Artificially Intelligent Agent can make, and it will determine the next best decision to make based on a current set of stimuli. Sometimes that leaves a lot to be desired and results in a flat agent.
So I developed this theory of designing AI that would based decisions on outside stimuli, and the current needs of the agent based on human thought processes. To make a long story short, this lead to more realistic human behavior. All I did was change my thought around providing an algorithm a set of data to parse through, with the idea of satisfying human instinct. I used human thought patterns in order to determine what to do next instead of a computer-generated decision based on conditions.
Using human thought patterns in designs based on AI seems lofty, right? Well, why not design around the idea of trying to predict what a human will want to do next? Even if you are not capable of thinking in these terms, you can at least practice by putting yourself through a thought process every time you make a decision about what color to use, what layout to use, where to put a button, whether or not to make this thing clickable.
Step 1: Understanding Your Audience.
Understanding your audience is the most important thing when it comes to designing user experiences. When you begin your design you need consider the human element. Whatever you have to do, understand your audience. What makes them tick? What makes them move forward? What do they love? What do they hate? When you understand the audience, you will be able to move on to step 2.
Step 2: Ask yourself questions constantly.
What is the condition, the situation of the human using my app or website? What are their needs? What are their thought processes while using my website or app. What are they looking for? Why are they here? When making any decision, from the layout, colors, fonts, and where to place things, always, always, always ask yourself as many questions about your end-user as possible. These who, what, when, where, and why's of design will help you make better decisions about your designs. Once you are to the point where you are constantly asking yourself questions you can move on to step 3.
Step 3: Consider the human thought process.
Humans, while very different, also have very similar thought processes. This is mostly because we act largely as a hive mind, based on what the person next to us is doing. On the internet it's a little bit different because there is anonymity, but you can rely on people generally acting as they would in real life. When you are designing your experience consider the thought process of the user. You have already understood who your audience is, so you have an understanding of their needs. And you now ask yourself questions about all of the decisions you are making so you are starting to consider them in every nuance of the design. Now it's time to consider the process with which they will be using your experience. It's as simple as plotting a path. Most humans operate based on lists. First I'll do this, then I'll do this, and last I'll do this. Once that list is done, I will move onto another list. And it goes on and on. This list of actions is based on a thought process that is also based on a list. When a person considers what to do next, they go through a list in their mind of environmental factors, personal factors, time-based factors and so on, in order to decide what action to perform next. With technology, it's much easier to predict and create the flow of their thought process by holding their hand. But in order to do that you must take yourself through the process of thinking like your user. Once you understand this, you can take on the final step.
Step 4: Satisfy human instincts.
Satisfying human instinct is hard if you think that you need to satisfy every need. But all you need to do is consider what your general audience will do next. You already understand your user really well and you are thinking in terms of the human thought process, now in order to truly hold the hand of your user and design based on satisfying human instinct you need to think of what they will do next.
Why is HCID important?
Well, first of all, it's important because it removes resistance in your user experience. When you can design based around satisfying human instinct, then you are removing a sticky layer of glue that stands between your website or app being successful and not. The user will slide into your experience and because it is instinctively designed to match their needs, they no longer have to think about what they want to do next, they just do it. This means that you retain users faster and without knowing, those users are recommending the experience. Also, the core point of HCID is predictive design, it is understanding the human process so well that you can predict what's next on their "list" and making the next thing easier to achieve through your experience.
It goes without saying that designing based 100% on aesthetics or based on current trends equals death by design. It's time to use some methodologies that are human-centered, after all, it's humans that are using our products.