Sunday 20 June 2021

Models: Mental, Conceptual and Interaction

A mental model is the way a person understands the world around them. You have a mental model of wooden blocks and you have a mental model of your oven, it's just the way your mind understands the way that something works. Your understanding by no means has to be correct or aligned with the intended use; for example I have a charcoal BBQ that I burn firewood inside of in the autumn to use it as a space heater for my patio. My use of the BBQ isn't exactly aligned with the intended use, but my mental model of it has expanded beyond just grilling food.

A key part of solving a UX challenge is to define a mental model that is appropriate for what is being designed, mental models are created early, and evolve quickly they are by no means, written in stone and should grow as you get a fuller understanding of the problem domain.

Six consideration to keep in mind when planning/analyzing a mental model are:

  • Appearance: the way the system appears it should be used.
  • Familiarity: does the system use design axioms and established design patterns?
  • Simplicity: the ease of use, can a new user figure it out through trial and error
  • Recall: procedural knowledge, recognizable sequences vs declarative knowledge facts
  • Flexibility: the ability to do things in any sequence.
  • Feedback: does the system provided positive and negative feedback appropriately.
mental models can be represented by flows or user journeys, they need to communicate why the user is trying to use the system

Once a mental model is constructed or understood then that insight can be used to create a conceptual model. A conceptual model is the bridge between how the user thinks the system works and how it generally functions. for a conceptual model you can start thinking how you are going to facilitate the mental model. these can take the form of wire frames
Conceptual models should describe what the user is trying to do

When the conceptual model is established then it's time to start experimenting with interaction models; these are more defined representations of how our system should work, however these are experiments. They can prove to be successful or be failures, think of them as tests to see if your approach is valid, this is not an end product of a process but merely step in an iterative process.
these can take the form of prototypes.
and interaction models should demonstrate how the system is going to help the user accomplish what they want to do.