About Soni York

Soni is the lead technical writer and communication specialist at Spitfire Management, responsible for user documentation, newsletters, webinars, social media and the website among other things. (She changes hats frequently.) She is also a trainer (see, another hat) who enjoys teaching new users the basics of the Spitfire Project Management System. Her postings on this site are all her own and don't necessarily represent Spitfire's positions, strategies or opinions.

Intuitive UI. Really?

Spitfire Management recently released a new version of its Spitfire Project Management System. One goal in this version was an easier-to-use, more intuitive UI (user interface). While we think we achieved the goal of making the software “more” intuitive, the truth is that whether a user thinks an interface is intuitive or not depends largely on that user’s experiences.

According to Everett McKay at UX DesignEdge, a UI is intuitive when “users understand its behavior and effect without use of reason, experimentation, assistance or special training.”  Mr. McKay then goes on to define Intuitive UI as one that has an appropriate combination of

  • Affordance- clues indicate the interaction
  • Expectation- the result is predictable
  • Efficiency- minimum effort is required
  • Responsiveness- clear, immediate feedback of success is given
  • Forgiveness- mistakes are not big deals
  • No Frustration- users are satisfied

What Mr. McKay does not talk about is just how varied users’ prior knowledge (from experience in the real world or other software) is, and how challenging that variation is when designing an intuitive UI.

As an example, I have encountered frustration in both video games and phone apps because I couldn’t figure out how to do something I wanted to do. My millennial sons, however, always seem to know: “just click here…”  When I ask, “how do you know that?” they shrug, “That’s how it is in other games/apps.”  So, because they have grown up using applications that have increasingly put the onus of learning on the user (through trial-and-error more than documentation), my sons quickly try things and learn how to do everything possible in any new app. They now find most apps very intuitive.

On the other end of the spectrum, I find a number of Baby Boomers who struggle with the idea of “just click here”.  They ask, “how would I know to do that?” If you ever see the words click here followed by a hyperlink, instead of just the hyperlink with its implied “click here”, you know that either the author or target audience is less comfortable with current technology.

So how to improve our software to be more intuitive for most users while not being confusing to any users? It isn’t easy. A survey asking our users to identify which icon best conveyed the idea of “click here to expand and get to more details” proved that there is no clear consensus on such matters. People who are used to certain software will say one thing, and people with different backgrounds will say something else. We are never going to be able to be 100% intuitive for all users.

Still, we do think Spitfire’s click-to-edit and click-to-filter functionality will prove to be intuitive once users realize that “just clicking” now allows them to edit or filter quite easily.

If you’d like to see our new interface yourself, contact us for a demo of the Spitfire Management System.


One of my sons is a .NET developer (a.k.a. software programmer). He recently told us about a task he was given that proved challenging and time-consuming. But he used some problem-solving skills and completed the task, feeling pretty good about his accomplishment. He then sent an email about it to the appropriate persons. Afterward, his supervisor surprised him with high praise—not for the job itself, but for the well written email!

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Save Now or Save Later

Whoever invented the coupon was a very smart person. The psychology behind coupons makes them effective. Sure, if there is something you were going to buy in a certain store anyway, a coupon just saves you money. But many people will buy something they weren’t thinking of buying before, just to “save” money with the coupon, or they will go to the store offering the coupon without checking to see if another store has lower prices. And once in the store, they might even buy other things at full price. In the end, people usually spend more money on that particular trip at that particular store than if they had not gotten the coupon at all.  And this is why stores give out coupons in the first place.

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The Blame Game

into-the-woodsOne of my favorite Broadway musicals is Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Near the end of this retelling of fairy tales—when many things have gone wrong and people have died—the remaining characters gather around and have a conversation (in song, of course) about whose fault it is. One by one, Jack (of beanstalk fame), the Baker, the Witch, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood defend themselves and refuse to take the blame fostered on them by the rest of the group. The song ends with all of them singing to each other:

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It’s Time For New!

new new newIf there is a student or teacher in your household, you know that a new year has begun or is about to begin. Generally, people of all ages involved with traditional schools in the U.S. know that these weeks are about new: new teachers/students, new things to learn, new people to meet, new outfits to wear, new challenges and rewards to experience. For those who look forward to “new,” there is a certain excitement in the air.

There is a certain excitement and energy in the offices of Spitfire Management also.

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