IDA: Intent-driven applications

I have been thinking about IDA for some time now. The idea is still fresh and requires some refinement. This is why I think writing about it in a blog can help clarity it to myself. Your feedback is most welcome. This post is subject to change :)

What is it?

A library package that will help web developers design intent-driven UX. The layout/functionality will adjust itself to the different user intents e.g., browse, buy, learn, view etc, with a nice transition between intents. For me, the idea is inspired by stage productions in Broadway musicals, where a single stage is adopted according to the context of the plot. Similarly, with IDA in place, business owner will be able to serve content to their customers relevant to their intent, which will lead greater user experience and higher conversion rate for the business.

There is nothing new under the sun…

As more users continue to engage with technology, businesses are pushing software engineers and designers to come up with ways to make UXs smoother and more intuitive as possible.

The evolution of smart devices has pushed the web design forward towards a responsive design where content is programmed to adjust (respond) to the projected environment. The Web has been really good at adopting the responsive design. Responsive Web design uses existing CSS techniques to allow content to be responsive and adjust accordingly to any medium used to access it, e.g., mobile phone browser, smart-watch, different size tv.

The responsive design has allowed for the content to fit the medium. The next step is for it to also blend into the context as well.

Some people are thinking about it as well, Jeff Fuhriman from Adobe, wrote in 2013! “Think Behavior, Not Only Devices” and calls for Behaviour-driven responsive design.

Behavior-driven responsive design seeks to understand the visitor’s needs and intent and to use this information to influence the order and emphasis of content, navigation, and design aesthetic

Jeff also cites Valle Hansen’s post who also iterates the importance for services to act on users’ intent.

Doc Searls wrote a book about the benefits of what he calls “The Intention Economy”.

An economy driven by consumer intent, where vendors must respond to the actual intentions of customers instead of vying for the attention of many.

Doc presents the idea in a more broader sense, it will come down to how we build systems.

It’s important to incorporate User into the this loop–either explicitly, by allowing users to specify their intents, or by figuring their intents from provided information. Note, I didn’t mention users’ actions. These are fairly straightforward. You click on “Buy” or “Browse”, I know which page to show you. It’s the page before you actually did anything on the website, which is the important one.

Today websites are full with content. It takes a significant chunk of time for use to navigate through them. Try Amazon. The sheer number of categories and subcategories will drive you nuts. Sometimes, you don’t even know what you are looking for, maybe it’s a gift? In that case, the website is powerless, beyond having a subsection of generic gifts ideas or it’s back to browsing caterogies.

Valle Hanssen, seems to agree

Practically speaking, if I go to on my desktop, I’m probably browsing for new jeans, and I’m probably buying them too. If I go to on my smartphone, I’m likely trying to find the bricks-and-mortar store that’s closest to me, or access my store’s hours. In that case, I don’t want to sift through all of’s content to get to the store locator on my smartphone; I want my smartphone to assume the store locator is one of my main goals, and make that a priority over other things like browsing for jeans.

Everyone seems to see the benefit of it, however, we are yet to see a real implementation of it. Meanwhile, the giants of the Internet are fighting over customers. They sift through personal information in order to get insights into our intents and customise their service accordingly. Despite an incredible progress in Big Data analytics and prediction algorithms, these still remain, to my mind, very crud when it comes translating the insight into an actionable page.

I think the problem is twofold: firstly, both designers and software engineers don’t have the tools to translate these “insights” into “action” in an automatic manner. Think how it’s done in the classic responsive design using CSS and other tooling. Secondly, figuring out the insight and reacting to it are two independent processes. The insight is retrieved by scientists, applying sophisticated algorithms, while software is written and websites are built by software engineers and designers. It’s very static, driven by templates and does not really reflect the spirit of the “response design” framework. I think, the main reason to why responsive design (largely) works is because we provided the designer the tools/frameworks to incorporate it inside their product.

I think similar frameworks/tools supporting intent-driven design process should appear soon.

Enter IDA library…

comments powered by Disqus