The myth of intuitive

Today in a description for a Bluetooth headset I read the following line:

“Intuitive, single-button control”

To me this reads as something of an oxymoron. How can something with multiple functions and only a single button to achieve them with ever be called intuitive?

Intuitive is a word that gets thrown around rather a lot in IT. Normally it is used to describe something people can just pick up and use with no training or instruction. Apple likes to use the word a lot in in relation to its devices and software. But tell me this, on the iPod, does the idea of moving your thumb round and round a dial ever equate to an up and down motion? Does three diagonal lines in the bottom corner of a window on any OS suggest to you that this is where you click to change its size? Does a circle with a line breaking it in the vertical suggest on and off or power?

The simple answer and conclusion from this is that there is no such thing as an intuitive interface or control mechanism. An easy to use interface is simply one that builds upon knowledge you already have.

To return to my Bluetooth headset, the one I was looking at was a few models up from the one I have now. It has the same one button structure as my current headset. Although I would not describe this interface as intuitive, if I ever was to use this new device I would assume double tapping that single button will call the last dialled number, pushing and holding for 6 seconds will change to pair mode.

These are not intuitive interactions, but they do come from knowledge I already have.

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