Mental Model question restated

26 Jun 2007 - 8:48am
7 years ago
6 replies
792 reads
tdellaringa
2006

Maybe my earlier question didn't make much sense, so let me restate my
question. Here you can see a mental model of movie goers:

http://www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/mental-models/blog/moviegoer_alignment_diagram/index.php

They call this an alignment diagram. Once they modeled the users thoughts
about movie going up top, they then aligned the proposed functionality of
the system to those models.

So the question(s) are:

1. Do any of you actually do this? If so, how helpful was it?
2. Would this only be helpful for a web application as opposed to a
marketing site that merely generates leads?
3. I still wonder if you are doing personas, how much extra bang for the
buck you are getting with this method. I realize they are different of
course, but I think the segmentation of your personas would give you similar
insights to this kind of alignment mapping...no?

Thanks

Tom

Comments

26 Jun 2007 - 9:27am
Marc Rettig
2004

Hi,
<raising my hand> I definitely do something very much like Indi's "mental
models," and like the term "alignment" for what it is I'm trying to
accomplish with them. Not every project, but some projects.

What's useful about it?
- Often it's the first picture the developers have ever seen of how features
and content are used in the flow of experience. Having this big on the wall
causes conversations to happen that otherwise don't.

- It works pretty well for finding gaps (behaviors that are unsupported by
existing features) and excess (places where an interface has more stuff than
anyone needs at the time).

- Making one causes a sort of inventory to be made, without regard for the
form of the interface. It allows the team to start thinking about the flow
of interaction before they get all tangled up in what the thing looks like
or what the particular controls might be.

- The informal task map on the top part of the model provides a hat rack on
which to hang annotations -- bits from research, essential qualities and
constraints, required knowledge, success measures, what can go wrong,
barriers to success, etc.

- We try to make sure our intermediate deliverables integrate the concerns
of users, developers, and business. The alignment model can definitely be
used in that way. (Remember folks, tools and models aren't *prescriptions*
-- you can adjust them and reinvent them any way you want! You are the boss
of them.)

Do we use persona?
Sometimes. Not always. When we do, the narrative about this or that person's
background, family size, what magazines they read, ... all that stuff, is
almost always the least useful and almost always is simply dispensed with.
It's simply not a reliable guide to design, and in my experience it is
difficult to get a consistent set of these to live in the minds of the whole
team.

So instead, our "persona" usually consist of a set of visual models that
portray the differences among people that matter for the design. Say, for
example, relationship maps, predicted frequency of use for different parts
of the application, and where they fall on a set of scales or continuua
describing the range of attitudes and behaviors in the people we studied.
This kind of thing can again change the conversations in the team in a
meaningful way, making a bridge between research and the measures of quality
the team is reaching for.

For an aging case study of a project that used something we called an
"alignment wall," you might like:
http://www.aiga.org/resources/content/9/7/8/documents/herzfeldt.pdf

Cheers,
Marc Rettig

. . . . .
Marc Rettig
Fit Associates, LLC

-----Original Message-----
Tom Dell'Aringa wrote:
Maybe my earlier question didn't make much sense, so let me restate my
question. Here you can see a mental model of movie goers:

http://www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/mental-models/blog/moviegoer_alignment_d
iagram/index.php

They call this an alignment diagram. Once they modeled the users thoughts
about movie going up top, they then aligned the proposed functionality of
the system to those models.

So the question(s) are:

1. Do any of you actually do this? If so, how helpful was it?
2. Would this only be helpful for a web application as opposed to a
marketing site that merely generates leads?
3. I still wonder if you are doing personas, how much extra bang for the
buck you are getting with this method. I realize they are different of
course, but I think the segmentation of your personas would give you similar
insights to this kind of alignment mapping...no?

Thanks

Tom

No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.5.476 / Virus Database: 269.9.8/869 - Release Date: 6/25/2007
5:32 PM

26 Jun 2007 - 3:47pm
natekendrick
2005

This is a task model. Not mental model... mental models are the users
understanding of how a system works.

This particular method is to bridge user research and site IA. So
yes, it is absolutely "bang for your buck". Its just that many
studios/people illustrate the same thing differently with better and
worse results.

This format is nice because it aligns content/fucntion on the bottom
of the "horizon" which can be used for gap/overflow analysis.

But it is limiting because there is no "birds-eye" understanding in
the information design.

This is a classic point where an info arch thought this "was good
enough" for their purposes but I imagine in real practical team use
the details get ignored because it is poorly formatted.

I view this diagram as being more important for the team to come to a
common understanding of the user landscape/tasks but the info design
really prevents that from happening.

-N

On Jun 26, 2007, at 6:48 AM, Tom Dell'Aringa wrote:

> Maybe my earlier question didn't make much sense, so let me restate my
> question. Here you can see a mental model of movie goers:
>
> http://www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/mental-models/blog/
> moviegoer_alignment_diagram/index.php
>
> They call this an alignment diagram. Once they modeled the users
> thoughts
> about movie going up top, they then aligned the proposed
> functionality of
> the system to those models.
>
> So the question(s) are:
>
> 1. Do any of you actually do this? If so, how helpful was it?
> 2. Would this only be helpful for a web application as opposed to a
> marketing site that merely generates leads?
> 3. I still wonder if you are doing personas, how much extra bang
> for the
> buck you are getting with this method. I realize they are different of
> course, but I think the segmentation of your personas would give
> you similar
> insights to this kind of alignment mapping...no?
>
> Thanks
>
> Tom
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

26 Jun 2007 - 3:55pm
natekendrick
2005

On Jun 26, 2007, at 1:47 PM, Nathan Kendrick wrote:

> This is a task model. Not mental model... mental models are the users
> understanding of how a system works.

sorry - the key difference meaning the task model has undergone
analysis, synthesis, and ultimately organized by someone other than
the user.

A mental model is a user's messy, sometimes illogical understanding
of how something operates.

A great example of this is ask any one of your parents how they think
email works. Or really any internet tech, everyone has unsurprisingly
different mental models.

26 Jun 2007 - 3:58pm
tdellaringa
2006

On 6/26/07, Nathan Kendrick <natekendrick at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
>
> This is a task model. Not mental model... mental models are the users
> understanding of how a system works.

Agreed - the PDF is apparently a representation of the "system" of going out
to a movie. It's the picture of the person's model as a tool. Supposedly...
hey smarter people than me are calling it that, I'm just posting a link! I'm
trying to understand both MMs and the tools to make use of them.

This particular method is to bridge user research and site IA. So
> yes, it is absolutely "bang for your buck". Its just that many
> studios/people illustrate the same thing differently with better and
> worse results.

Could you give an example of a better type of illustration (doesn't have to
be movie goers).

This format is nice because it aligns content/fucntion on the bottom
> of the "horizon" which can be used for gap/overflow analysis.
>
> But it is limiting because there is no "birds-eye" understanding in
> the information design.

Yeah, and it's cluttered too! ;)

This is a classic point where an info arch thought this "was good
> enough" for their purposes but I imagine in real practical team use
> the details get ignored because it is poorly formatted.
>
> I view this diagram as being more important for the team to come to a
> common understanding of the user landscape/tasks but the info design
> really prevents that from happening.

Yeah, it's seems like a tough thing to post on the wall and make practical.
Again, if you have any better examples, I'd love to see them. I'm trying to
decide if and how we're going to include MMs in our design process. I'm
leaning toward doing it when time allows, but I don't know what the output
will or should be that is beneficial to the team.

Been searching high and low for info on MMs too, and it's scarce out there.
Lot's of old info. So far I think the best thing I have found, for anyone
who is interested, is the following page:

http://www.lauradove.info/reports/mental%20models.htm

The paper is dated 1999, but is at least looking at MMs in relation to HCI.

I worked out my 1 pager definition of MM with the help of that and some
other sources, and this is what I have:

"A mental model is someone's internal thought process for how something
works in the real world. It is something like an internal symbol or
representation for something external. In short, it is a set of beliefs
about how a system works. Users interact with systems based on these
beliefs. If those beliefs do not match the external system, the user will
struggle with the system."

Kinda rough, but I think it gets the point across.

Tom

26 Jun 2007 - 4:00pm
tdellaringa
2006

On 6/26/07, Nathan Kendrick <natekendrick at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
>
> On Jun 26, 2007, at 1:47 PM, Nathan Kendrick wrote:
>
> > This is a task model. Not mental model... mental models are the users
> > understanding of how a system works.
>
> sorry - the key difference meaning the task model has undergone
> analysis, synthesis, and ultimately organized by someone other than
> the user.

Ah, the clarification helps. But there are still people calling that diagram
a MM - go figure. So your point is that they studied people's mental models
about movie going, then created a task model based on that research? And
this particular representation may not be the best way to show it... if I
got you right.

Tom

26 Jun 2007 - 4:11pm
natekendrick
2005

On Jun 26, 2007, at 1:58 PM, Tom Dell'Aringa wrote:

> Yeah, it's seems like a tough thing to post on the wall and make
> practical. Again, if you have any better examples, I'd love to see
> them. I'm trying to decide if and how we're going to include MMs in
> our design process. I'm leaning toward doing it when time allows,
> but I don't know what the output will or should be that is
> beneficial to the team.

haha - I wanna be careful here because there are AP people on this
list =)

It is very good for putting on the wall, in fact the only to use this
execution of a task model is to put it on the wall and sticky note
the heck out of it. I am sure that AP has many photos of this
happening at their client teams.

In my experience tho, many people simply "gloss over" when presented
with an information design as opaque as this. When a client pays this
much for a diagram, often it behooves the designer to present it in a
way that is easier to engage and understand at different levels. Some
can argue that the utilization of this diagram is only for certain
roles within the team, thereby not necessitating time for good
information design. I would agree with that too. Personally I like to
create beautiful things so I am somewhat shallow =)

Syndicate content Get the feed