Mental Models



Products that are easy-to-use are easy-to-use because they are predictable. It's as simple as that. So let's ramp up our efforts to teach everyone to be "technology-literate". Then they'll understand how all the digital products they have to use work, right?

Wrong. It's not how the product really works that matters. That's your job. It's how the user thinks it works. It's what we might call the user's mental model of the product. And you can help your user understand your product by making sure it supports a good mental model. You can do that by:

  • Explicitly designing the mental model – and making sure it's a good one
  • Doing it first, before you build the product
  • Building the product to support and reveal the model, not the other way around

If you do these things, your users will find your product easier to use, and they often won't know why. It'll just be natural and intuitive. Your product will become invisible, and that's usually a good thing. Sorry!