Why Mental Models Are Essential In Web Application Design

Why Mental Models

I have talked a lot about designing web applications keeping in mind the Mental Models of the users of the web applications.

A Mental Model is nothing but a model that the users will build in their mind about how a particular thing will look, feel and work.

But I never really spent time in explaining why it is so important to design web applications by keeping your user’s mental models in mind.

So I thought I will do that today.

But I cannot explain it better than how Don Norman did in the two videos below.

Before you watch these videos, do remember that what Don Norman calls out as Conceptual Models are actually what I call as Mental Models.

Why I do it?

It is just because I think the term “Mental Models” expresses the thoughts in someone’s mind better than the term “Conceptual Models”.

With that out of the way, watch these 2 videos… (the second one is really funny)

This video demonstrated how we interact with physical objects using the mental model that we already have in our minds about how the objects should work.

This is very true in software applications as well. Watch this…

The mental model of “Room” that Don’s son had from his interactions with the real physical world influenced his thinking when he tried interacting with software.

This happens all the time with everyone when they interact with new or unknown objects.

Even when people interact with web applications!

It does not matter how simple or beautiful the design of your web application is. Ultimately, the users are going to interact with your web application using the Mental Model that they have built in their minds about how certain things should work.

That is why it is important that you keep your user’s mental models in mind when designing web applications.

Do you agree Mental Models are essential while designing web applications? Let me know in the comments below.

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