There are many techniques for trying to develop an intuitive user experience, one I particularly like is “persona-based design”. With persona-based design you’re basically trying to figure out the personality types that are going to use your design, and then put yourself into the mindset of the user, figuring out their needs and desires. The key to this is determining their true intention, and presenting the options to them that most closely match.
An example of a site which has really impressed me this week – Zipcar. Zipcar is a car sharing service. You sign up for a small fee and get a handy ID card which gives you access to hundreds of cars for as short a time as an hour, up to several days. All very handy for someone who’s moved to a nice new city which doesn’t require much access to a car.
The application process for a non-national is a little more complicated – After the standard web sign-up I had to apply to my old insurance company to get proof that I’m not some car-wrecking psychopath. So, I fired that off and here comes the clever bit – when I come back to the Zipcar website a few days later it understands what part of the process I’m waiting on, and immediately directs me to a page reminding me that I need to send off my documentation and how long the process takes for verification.
This morning I received a welcome pack in the post with my ID card and some instructions. When I go back to the Zipcar site again, it immediately takes me to the “Activate your new card” screen, with simple instructions on how to proceed. I haven’t even been in one of their cars yet and I’m already a happy customer – At every turn the information I required was right in front of me.
The next time you’re putting together something that a customer is going to interact with, stop for a moment and think – What’s their intention? What do they want to know, or what do they need to do? If you can answer the question before it’s asked, you will amaze and delight.