Apps are essentially technology products—products that aim to solve a problem for users. Design is a salient feature in all apps; it is how users understand, interact, and use a product. The less intuitive an app is in terms of design, the harder it is for its target audience to learn to use it. Poor design ultimately costs products their user-base. No one will return to an app that is hard to use, nor recommend an app that is difficult to understand and learn.

Source: AppAnnie Top iOs Shopping Apps

Design isn’t just colors, buttons, fonts, and loading screens—it also involves the app’s flow. I.e., which screens a user encounters when using a feature, how the user arrives at these screens, what in-app indications guide the user to the next screen, and if the screens communicate their purpose clearly and concisely. From that perspective, we can define intuitive design as easy to understand and learn.

At the heart of a user-centered design lies a robust, end-to-end usability testing process that determines if an app is usable and intuitive enough for its target audience.

Related: 6 ways to optimize dating app UX through testing

Elements of intuitive UI

Testing for intuitive UI requires understanding the user interface aspects that make it intuitive to begin with.

Among the widely accepted elements of intuitive UI, robust user interface testing focuses on validating:

  • Discoverability
  • Affordance
  • Comprehensibility
  • Responsive feedback
  • Predictability
  • Efficiency
  • Forgiveness
  • Explorability

Finding the Happy Path – discoverability, comprehensibility

No matter how complex an application is, every app has a core value delivery. This core value delivery is why people use the app. For example, Instagram’s purpose is not to take photos; rather, the goal is to share pictures after editing them with filters.

The Happy Path denotes the optimal user journey. In other words, it’s the entire process a user goes through to use the core function of an app, without running into errors or navigating to the wrong screen or having to stop and figure out where a button might be.

Not only do testers determine the Happy path and its potential obstacles, but they also ascertain if it can be improved – what is missing and if there is unnecessary clutter.

Expected behavior – affordance, predictability

Product design is a combination of user interactions and user experience. When we talk about expected design behavior in a mobile app, we look at two things:

  1. Design guidelines issued by app stores for their respective platforms
  2. What users think will happen when they tap on a button (or where they expect to see the setting, menu, etc.).

These aspects speak to the affordance and predictability of intuitive UI since a modern user has a set of expectations from the application as well as from the information communicated by the design elements. For example, a pencil icon would be presumed to mean ‘edit or compose a message’ while a trash can icon would indicate a delete action.

While testers are familiar with the industry norms on UI design and app stores’ design guidelines, the same is not the case for end-users. The latter simply know that there is a commonality in how all apps look and behave on a particular platform. So when the end-users interact with a new app for the first time, they are subconsciously relying on previously accumulated app experiences and what they consider ‘intuitive.’
When there is a difference in expected behavior, the design can no longer be considered intuitive. For instance, when a pop-up appears with two call-to-action buttons—a user might generally expect the button on the left to say ‘Yes’ and the one on the right to say ‘No’— but if the buttons’ position gets reversed, the design becomes counterintuitive.

When testing for intuitive design, an experienced tester will consider what the user expects and what the design dictates. Often, the design is complex simply because the application itself is complex – think of Facebook’s design with its news feed, profile view, watch list, groups, and more.

Testing for design inconsistencies – predictability, efficiency & explorability

Wherever interacting with an app, the user needs to feel confident that all the stages are cohesive and seamless. Design inconsistencies trigger confusion and increase user churn rate.

A well-designed mobile app needs to adhere to design guidelines and user expectations. It also needs to have a consistent product design theme throughout all screen flows and interactions. For example, if there is a shortcut button to the home screen on 10 out of 12 app screens, the user will be wholly lost on the 2 screens without the said button. Depending on where on the user’s journey map those 2 screens fall, user attrition can occur.

When testing for design inconsistencies, professional testers validate the real user journey against the planned user journey map and highlight missing flows that may dead-end the customer.

Error handling – forgiveness, explorability & responsive feedback

Errors will happen in tech. It’s a given. Handling errors in an informative and non-disruptive way is what gives end-users confidence in the product. And the more sensitive the data collected, the better the error handling experience must be.

Learn how Testlio helps Strava ensure unparalleled user experience for their growing customers.

Intuitive design testing will check for scenarios where an app does not receive an expected value from the server in an API response. How is the user experience handled in such a case – does the app simply crash? Does it send a crash report to the developer? Does the user get an informative error message about the missing value and the steps taken to remedy the broken flow?

Good design adjusts for such ‘null’ objects being sent in response to API calls, while the implementation of crash reporting tools ensures the user experience is monitored, and crash reports are generated for developers to fix as they come up.

Effective error handling also includes providing the user with immediate feedback on correcting input. For example, if a user has inadvertently enabled caps lock while typing a password, an alert to this effect should be on the screen.

App-level validations are therefore critical to an intuitive UI and good user experience.

UX testing to support product development

With lean and agile product development practices, the idea is to de-risk the product by validating early and continuously. Without continuous validation, the product is at risk.

Working with third-party QA partners that offer managed, networked testing services allows enhancing software quality with the help of professional testers that match the product’s target customer persona. These testers can dive into the entire app-driven experience, provide actionable feedback for improvements, and catch critical bugs.

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Testlio helps deliver flawless app experiences. Contact us today for a free demo.

Fatima is a movie junkie and technology enthusiast who aspires to be a published author.