Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Documentation of Mental Model

I would like to share my thought process considering the “Mental model” of the user while designing the Service, Webpages, Interactions etc..

Mental Model is how we explain yourself about how something works in the real world, Our Mental models help us to predict what will happen if any action is performed.

Lets take an example of chipotle; it’s a 3-step process of ordering your food.

  1. Pick & place the order
  2. Pay for it
  3. Fill the drink and pick the napkins

Our mental models help shape our behavior and define our approach to solve the problem.

If the same service order is changed to

  1. Fill the drink and pick the napkins
  2. Pick & place the order
  3. Pay for it

Mental models lets you skip the Step 1 and follow the step 2 &3. We should be very careful when we deviate our users.

Coming to computer interfaces, users come to websites with a problem and expectation of how they will solve the problem. So we should be careful when we deviate away from the expectation of how things are supposed to work. In Some of the website I see that people tend to put grey color for the links which users generally miss it, because users are tend to use blue color links. When business are moving towards making a change the mental model of the user we need to document mental models.

What is the need to document mental models?

Mental models should serve as an analytic tool, allowing us to clearly document users’ current mental images, vocabulary, and assumptions. Once the mental model is documented, we can create a target mental model—the model of the product that we want our users to have. If there is a difference between the two, we can design the UI and user assistance material to transition users from their current models to the target model.


We have to be careful when we deviate away from our users expectations of how things are supposed to work. We need to do thorough A/B testing and create target mental model, which can help in having a smooth transition from Old to New Mental model of the user

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