Using Mental Models for Better UX Design
” width=”750″ Want to get on the same page as your users? Then you need to have their mental models down. This post looks at the best tips and examples to get you started The key to a great user experience? Understanding how your users think – it’s as simple as that. The technical term for how people think about any concept or process is known as a mental model. Bring mental models to life by prototyping your apps and websites Download Free We could say that mental models are one of the main pieces in the user experience jigsaw puzzle that UI-UX designers face on a regular basis. User testing and research establishes who your users are and what tasks they want to achieve. Discovering their mental models is about finding out how you can help them achieve those tasks. In this post, we’re going to look at how we can apply mental model theory to UI design. We’ll also take a look at some techniques for how we can match our users’ mental models, as well as some classic examples. It was Kenneth Craik, the Scottish psychologist and philosopher who first coined the term “mental model” in 1943 when he noted that people build “small-scale” models of how the world around them works. To understand how these models apply to UI design, we should first take a reality check and see how they help people interpret facts about the real world. Mental models in the real world To start with, let’s examine how language, one of the main faculties that differentiates humans from other animals, helps shape our world. When learning Japanese, English speakers are often left perplexed by the lack of a future tense, while at the same time, being amazed that there are tenses they’d never conceived of in English. That right there is a mental model in action. Then you have the example of Wittgenstein’s Lion who can speak English (and maybe Japanese!) and yet no one understands it. This is because, even though the lion speaks the same language as us and uses the same words, its concepts of the world differ vastly due to its perceptions. A lion relies much more on smell and operates purely from instinct, with zero abstract thought. ” width=”100%” If you asked it about its day, it might run off something like this: “Apathetic. Tongue is heavy (tiredness), only sedimentary rock (I don’t smell any leads on my next meal)…come closer (you’re my next meal!).” Perception of reality and how things work Although mental models might sound like some complicated psychological concept, the truth is, they’re actually quite simple: people learn from past experiences and apply that knowledge to whatever task they encounter. The above examples of language illustrate quite well how people apply knowledge they’ve already learned to the world. In short, a mental model is someone’s current grip on events, their perception of reality and of how something works. Applying mental models to web design One of the whole reasons that UX design exists is to cater to people’s mental models to help them carry out tasks with the best experience possible. The real question though, is how do mental models apply to UI-UX design? And how can you leverage this psychological element of the user’s experience to build more user-friendly products? » Read More
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