Food for thought #5

November 23rd, 2011

James Wilson on the difference between features and intents:

Consider a user talking about your app saying, “it can do this, it can do that”. Now compare that to them saying that with your creation “I can do this, I can do that”. The difference is syntactically small but incredibly important from an application design and implementation perspective. In the latter case of a user saying that with your app they can do this or they can do that, you have successfully interlocked the users intentions with the features your app possesses. That is, the reason the user picked up the device to run your app and the end result they wanted, was perfectly and intuitively accessible to the user without thought of what the app can do and how that might translate into what they wanted to do. Invisible UI, intuitive user experience, knowing how to use an app the first time, etc, etc; they all require the same thing: for the users intent and the applications features to be one.

A great app always starts by mapping out the user’s perspective – what is the core set of tasks or flows, and what is the most unintrusive and quickest way for the users to complete them. Each flow in the finalized set is broken down into steps, and if you did this properly, individual steps are shared between multiple flows. Features are just a byproduct of proper design process.