What Is Intuitive Product Design? The Secret To Creating User-Centric Products

What Is Intuitive Product Design? The Secret To Creating User-Centric Products cover

Why does intuitive product design matter? Shouldn’t useful features be enough to propel your product to success?

Unfortunately, nobody will use features that don’t provide excellent product experiences.

This post tackles everything you must know about designing an intuitive product that customers will love to use.


  • Intuitive product design is the process of making products easier to use.
  • Observing the best design principles helps you build a customer-centric product.
  • Mental models allow customers to use a product based on their assumptions of its user interface.
  • If the product doesn’t match the mental models customers have for it, it will provide them with an underwhelming user experience (UX).
  • UX designers concern themselves with a product design’s intuitiveness—you need their help to ensure that customers use your product’s most helpful feature.

Creating intuitive products

  • Create easy-to-follow guides to onboard customers with your product.
  • Use hotspots to create visual cues on what users must do on your app next.
  • Break up tasks users must do in your product into smaller tasks with checklists and bullet points.
  • Make tooltips appear contextually within your app to guide customers using your product features.
  • UI feedback informs users how your app is supposed to work and eliminates the mismatch in mental models.
  • Use interactive walkthroughs to hold users’ hands and help boost product adoption.
  • Identify causes of friction between your customers and your product by gathering data using user analytics tools.

Intuitive design best practices

  • Give your product’s design equal importance as its features. Striking the balance between usability and function allows your product to achieve customer happiness.
  • Learn your product’s target audience by gathering user research and in-app feedback.
  • Run usability tests to ensure your product’s intuitiveness and ease of use.
  • Conduct in-app UX surveys to collect quantitative and qualitative data on how to improve your product design.

What is intuitive product design?

Intuitive product design is about creating products that are easy to use no matter how complex the jobs they are helping users solve.

Intuitive design helps shorten the learning path and makes the experience while using the product, better.

Why is intuitive design important for products?

Users abandon apps after their first time using them due to poor user experience. The last thing they need is to spend extra time learning how your product works.

By designing intuitive products, you offer users a more seamless product experience which allows them to onboard faster.

Moreover, intuitive design allows you to take a customer-centric approach instead of a product-centric one. The former helps you provide users with the best possible product experience, resulting in higher retention.

How do mental models impact intuitive design?

First of all, let’s understand what mental models are.

Mental models are how we understand the world. They shape the connections and opportunities that we see.

In a nutshell, mental models help users organize information in their brains to interact with their surroundings appropriately.

Here are some examples of mental models:

  • The navigation bar is at the top of the screen.
  • Product features are on the right or left sidebar menu.
  • When users have a question, they search for the widget at the bottom for contacting customer support.
  • Buttons come in colored boxes, a cue for users to click on them.

How user’s mental model guides them through products

The above are users’ preconceived notions of how to use a product. Following their expectations regarding your product’s design allows them to interact with it appropriately.

For example, people assume that underlined text is a link that will load a new page or screen.

But if nothing happens, the product design challenges users’ existing knowledge of how links work. This makes it much more difficult for them to use your product.

Using in-app guides as part of the onboarding process reduces the friction between users and the expectation they have from your product. These guides help users throughout the customer journey without disrupting their mental models.

intuitive design interface mental model userpilot dashboard
Build in-app guides with Userpilot and improve the product experience.

Who is responsible for intuitive design?

UX designers bear the responsibility for your product design’s intuitiveness. They are responsible for using the right color, font, and element placements to increase the product’s usability.

UX designers differ from product designers, who focus more on brainstorming product features that resolve customer issues.

While their roles are not the same, UX and product designers should work together to provide customers with an intuitive product.

How can I create a product that users find intuitive?

Below are ways to help you design an intuitive product:

Make getting started easier for your users

Thanks to mental models, users intuitively know what to do when they start using your product. But your product may function differently, compared to similar apps in the market.

In this case, you can simplify the customer journey by providing them with easy-to-follow steps. This is the equivalent of a checklist.

Notion does this in a clever way. They use their product to create the checklist and showcase its value while helping users navigate and get started.

getting started screen intuitive design
Notion’s Getting Started screen with intuitive design.

Use hotspots to offer guidance without cluttering the UI

Hotspots are great for drawing attention to a specific product UI element.

Those little flickering lights guide the users to take action.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should clutter your UI with hotspots everywhere. Trigger them to appear on the right screen, for the right user, at the right time.

Kind of like creating a step-by-step guide that helps users navigate the product.

Build contextual hotspots with Userpilot.

Make information digestible with checklists

If people don’t know what to do next, they intuitively search for instructions to help them get started.

Checklists help users get started with the product and engage with the most relevant parts of it. You know, the ones that get them to experience value.

With checklists, you remove friction and help the user focus on the specific functionality of the product that matters more.

Add gamification elements like progress bars and you’ll also incentivize the user to engage and complete the tasks.

checklist customer success platform userpilot
Userpilot’s Getting Started checklist.

Use tooltips to help users discover relevant features

Tooltips are small pop-ups that offer extra details on a UI element. They help keep the UI clean without compromising the product’s intuitiveness.

Using tooltips during the onboarding process helps users understand the extra details about each UI element and sets the right expectation of the product.

You can also use them during the secondary onboarding phase and point users to discover advanced features that will bring extra value.

intuitive design tooltip userpilot
Userpilot’s tooltips feature in action.

Replace empty states with personalized content

Empty states are those blank screens users see after signing up when there is no data to be displayed.

These white screens cause users to freeze since they don’t know how to get started. They are the opposite of intuitive design as users won’t know what to click or do first.

So, they’ll just leave and probably never return.

Replace empty states with personalized content or demo data to showcase the product in action. Doing so prompts action and helps users get started using the product.

empty state intuitive design
Prompt action – don’t leave users to stare at an empty state page.

Fix mental model mismatches with UI feedback

Tell users how your product is supposed to respond to prevent mismatches between their expectations and reality.

Loading pages are a great way to prevent this and avoid frustration.

If an action didn’t lead to an immediate response (such as a page not loading or data not displaying) after a click of a button, the user won’t know if this is an error or normal UI app behavior.

They might exit or reload the page without knowing that the page is working perfectly fine.

Proper use of UI feedback, such as loading pages, can be used to set the right expectations while the page is loading and make the product more intuitive.

loading page message intuitive design
Surfer’s loading page message.

Use interactive walkthrough to shorten the learning curve

The faster users learn how to use the product, the sooner they get value from it and ultimately adopt it.

Use interactive walkthroughs to guide them step by step and shorten the learning process. Make sure to keep the guides short and focus on one feature at a time.

Guiding users increases customer activation and engagement, leading to higher adoption and retention.

interactive walkthorugh intuitive design
Kommunicate’s interactive walkthrough guides users.

Understand what’s causing friction and improve

Analyze how users interact with your product and identify patterns that are causing friction.

For example, have they clicked on a UI element of a feature multiple times but never finished the action? In other words, the task that the feature should help them accomplish never occurred.

Track UI clicks, hovers, and events using product usage analytics tools to pinpoint where users usually get stuck. These friction points can easily be improved with in-app guides as discussed above.

users per event userpilot analytics intuitive design
Userpilot’s analytics give you detailed insights into product usage.

Best practices for designing intuitive interfaces

Best design practices allow you to align with users’ mental models and provide an excellent user experience from the get-go.

Below are some of the best ones:

Make design central to the product

Most SaaS companies fail to focus on more than the product’s features and functionality.

While this process is not a bad approach, it disregards design’s role in a product. This is partly why friction between users and products leads to customer churn.

As mentioned, involving a UX designer alongside a product designer, paves the way for creating a more customer-centric app. By designing a product that your customers find easy to use, you can provide a positive product experience.

Research your target audience

Prioritizing what users need and want from your product leads to a more human-centered product.

Gather data to understand who your target audience is and what are they looking to achieve by using your product.

You can do that by gathering user feedback using in-app surveys on top of tracking product usage analytics.

Understand their expectations and what they find intuitive or not and adjust the product design to improve user experience.

Stay up to date with design trends and existing UI design patterns

The rule of UX is quite simple: make your product easy to use.

The Latest UX trends can give you some insights into what’s trending and what users expect from their interactions with products. For example, if Single Sign On (SSO) becomes a must-have, not adopting the trends will lead to user dissatisfaction.

But, remember that some trends come and go.

Don’t follow them blindly as they won’t make your product more intuitive and desirable.

Do your research, understand why users like and prefer a trend, and always make the decision of following trends based on data and what works best for your users.

Test product’s intuitiveness with usability testing

Usability testing is a must when looking to improve product design and make it more intuitive.

Tests the product’s viability to understand how intuitive it feels to users while using predefined test conditions.

There are multiple ways to test the usability of a product using existing customers, beta tests, or even your team members that weren’t involved in the product design.

Here are some of the most common usability tests:

  • 5-second test – Ask users who have seen a part of your app to explain it in five seconds.
  • First-click testing – Evaluate if users can identify the direction they must take to complete a specific given task and whether they stay on the happy path.
  • Guerilla testing -Gather feedback from random people on your design prototype.
  • Lab usability testing – Invite a segment of your users to share detailed feedback about your product design and offer them an incentive in return.
  • Unmoderated remote usability testing – Conduct quick and inexpensive remote tests without a moderator to collect data for analysis later.

Conduct user research with in-app surveys and improve accordingly

In-app surveys ask open and close-ended questions about how customers perceive and use your product.

For example, the customer effort score (CES) collects data on the perceived effort of completing a task using the product.

CES hotjar intuitive design
Customer effort score survey-Hotjar.

You can also implement general user experience surveys. Asking the right questions and giving users the chance to self-identify will give you relevant data on how your product is perceived.

Slack uses a friendly tone and natural language when phrasing its survey question and collects both quantitative and qualitative feedback for more granular insights.

feature surveys slack-in-app-messages
Slack in-app feedback survey.


An intuitive product design will get users to adopt your product faster and improve their experience.

Conducting research and gathering customer feedback allows you to design a product that matches your target audience’s mental models and helps them achieve customer success.

And for what can’t be implemented on the UI’s design, use small in-app guides and tips to compensate.

Want to get started with intuitive product design? Get a Userpilot Demo and see how it can help with improving the user experience with in-app guides.

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