Personas and Mental Models (was DDD conflicts with Cooper GDD)

3 Jul 2007 - 3:39pm
7 years ago
1 reply
954 reads
Dave Cronin

> Michael Scharf said:
> But what do you do with the mental models of the different personas?
> Do you formalize them? How do you communicate them to the developers?
> Have you ever tried to let the developers create some
> software that represents the mental model(s)?

Good questions.

At Cooper, we tend not spend a ton of effort "formalizing" our personas'
mental models. This is not because they're not important, but because
they are not typically well-defined in a logical sense, and therefore
not entirely well-suited for formalism.

We often express personas' mental models using narrative (text), but
there are certainly times when a diagram is helpful (like a mind map or
an affinity diagram),

Regardless of the form, and depending on the project, we are commonly
concerned with the following aspects of the mental model:

- The "objects" that the persona thinks in terms of (e.g. for a photo
sharing service, these might be photos and albums)
- The most important "attributes" of those objects (e.g. when the photo
was taken)
- The persona's minimum expectations for the product capabilities and
user experience based upon past experiences in the domain

While, as I said, we don't spend a ton of effort formalizing and
communicating the personas' mental models, we do put considerable effort
into conveying the manifest model (or represented model) in as much
detail and formal rigor as possible. You'll recall from About Face that
the manifest/represented model is the actual behavioral face of the
product. This is hopefully quite close to the mental model, though it
may be different some ways (hopefully because it will end up being more
useful to users).

We typically convey the represented model through our design
specifications, and it often takes the form of screen renderings, tables
and various diagrams to illustrate the relationships between objects and

Hope this helps.



Cooper | Product Design for a Digital World

David Cronin
Director of Interaction Design

office (415) 267 3504
mobile (415) 699 3036
dave at |

All information in this message is proprietary & confidential.


8 Aug 2007 - 12:17am

Can we use personas to conduct research on general users preference
for any language over the web. I have been following the articles
about personas development but most of them focus on personas for a
single website, or system. But can we implement this methodology in
identifying general web users behavior and preferences?

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