Data Isn't Always Enough for UI/UX Design. Here's Why Intuition Matters, Too. Although highly different from each other, when utilized in tandem, data and intuition can be valuable assets across many industries—including UI/UX design.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
There is an evident distinction between fact and feeling. The clear chasm between these two forces is separated by statistical data that can be measured and intuition that is based on previous experience and recognition. Although highly different from each other, when utilized in tandem, data and intuition can be valuable assets across many industries — including UI/UX design.
Data is, of course, a fundamental asset for UI/UX design because it allows designers and developers alike to understand the analytics of a design, and most importantly, statistical evidence that highlights the way their users are engaging with a digital product. With a powerful and logistical tool such as data, it begs the question: Why do UI/UX teams need intuition? Intuition fills in the gaps that data cannot answer simply based on past experience, gut feelings and subconscious thinking. Yet, when fused together, data and intuition should co-exist for designs that are strengthened with statistics and style.
Striking the right balance
Web design is evolving with fresh, futuristic shifts that shake the status quo of what users are used to, while also staying in line with usability standards. Web design is layered with a myriad of features that build its composition, and data is essential for sticking to the facts when it comes to the functionality and usability of a website.
It is no secret that design is driven by data. Developers leverage data in all forms for all usability purposes while also prioritizing it as a tool for understanding possible users. For any successful UI/UX web design, developers understand the importance of a user-centric experience and data. Ultimately, they collect the appropriate, measurable insights on users to create this.
A/B multivariate testing, data analysis on analytics, heatmaps, eye-tracking and surveys are just a glimpse of how data can be accrued from a website. This information is what can essentially build a user-centric design with accurate and precise statistics.
Although data reverberates throughout a website, intuition from design and development teams needs to co-exist in that very same workflow. Intuition provides an essential perspective on not only users but the building blocks of a website. Intuition is an automatic feeling that enables designers to make decisions based on past experiences, user trends that have been much more prominent in the design world and human behavior. Past experiences can include valuable insights learned such as standard practices and how they would work in a current design and knowing how to find the golden ratio of design element implementation. Although data can provide these insights as well in a more statistical way, it is intuition that allows designers and developers to get into the headspace of their potential users and build context of use.
For example, it is quite commonly known that modern-day users prefer instantaneous results and quick access to information. On average, webpage visits typically last less than one minute — unless a user becomes truly engaged with a website. With the quick pace of mobile applications and social media apps, the instant gratification of information is present across platforms and the way users interact with them. Moreover, as designers and developers see platforms and digital designs heavily lean into this new mode of information consumption, it is intuition that informs UI/UX teams that faster is better, based on their past experiences interacting with other digital platforms.
This intuition is what allows them to make informed decisions for their designs that ultimately strengthen the experiences and digital products they are creating for others. Yet, data can also kick in to showcase the time span users are expected to engage with a digital product and how long until that attention dwindles. A design simply cannot function without both intuition and data. These two exist on the same plane but offer two very different, yet useful metrics on what a design needs for both usability and enjoyment.
Implementing intuition into your workflow
Intuition is subjective. It is formed on diverse features, and although it is not a simple guess, it is based on senses, rational and a previous, yet realistic accumulation of information. How then, can something as subjective as intuition be useful in digital designs? One way to incorporate intuition is by collectively encouraging intuitive thinking into your work strategy. A majority of digital design agencies streamline their best ideas by regrouping and sharing their designs for initial and internal feedback. Opening the floor for your team to offer their feedback based on their thoughts that are supported by stakeholder expectations and overall brand identity opens the door for intuition to kick in based on practical evidence. Not only can this allow for new ideas and innovative, creative thought processes, but it also encourages iterative designing and the freedom of new perspectives that can elevate a design.
As flexible and subjective as intuition is, you want to ensure that when utilized, you consider its many facets. This can be achieved by breaking down the process into three core steps: evaluate, analyze and support. A key step is to ensure you evaluate your decision based on intuition fully. Evaluating the possible constraints, pain points, practicality and benefits realistically puts your thought process into fruition. It also strengthens that gut feeling with careful consideration, especially for the success of a project. Analyzing that decision is also central to understanding all the possible alternatives for any design direction you decide to embark on. How will this efficiently push you down the trajectory of the bigger, overall goal? Supporting creative thought with intuition needs to align and support any established standards of your project. This ranges from website design directions that are subjective but supported by an established design system or standards.
Design driven by data
UI/UX designers understand that data propels a design because relying solely on intuition does not allow a design to be curated to the best it can be. With data, measurable analytics strengthen the decisions made based on intuition with concrete evidence. There are valuable ways to test and evaluate the metrics of any digital product. From understanding the demographics of your audience to user behavior KPIs, sales numbers and analytics such as linger time and bounce rates, there is so much that data can do to inform all design and developers.
Yet, data can lack some holes in information. Data cannot straightforwardly inform designers what animations reign in innovation or which color story to utilize — that is based on intuition. Data can statistically demonstrate the percentage of companies utilizing certain color stories or different demographics of users who prefer certain visuals/color stories in the designs they interact with, but it cannot inform how it should be utilized within a design or which possible color alternative to include.
Limiting yourself to viewing data with tunnel vision can limit company growth. Without intuition, creativity is sacrificed because solely basing decisions on stats and analytics dilute the possibility for innovative thinking and disruptive innovation that could potentially lead you on the trajectory of reinventing the expected. Yet, data is still essential in this duality because data will reveal if such innovation is possible. Intuition is key for any decision. Whether that is in the UI/UX world or in everyday life decisions, intuition and data inform each other — validating gut feeling with fact.