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Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  992 ratings  ·  31 reviews
There is no single methodology for creating the perfect product--but you can increase your odds. One of the best ways is to understand users' reasons for doing things. Mental Models gives you the tools to help you grasp, and design for, those reasons. Adaptive Path co-founder Indi Young has written a roll-up-your-sleeves book for designers, managers, and anyone else ...more
Paperback, 299 pages
Published August 1st 2008 by Rosenfeld Media (first published January 1st 2008)
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Dave Emmett
Apr 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: user experience designers, user researchers, information architects
This book wasn't at all what I expected it would be. But in a good way.

My understanding of mental models came from Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things, where he talks about a mental model being the concept someone has about how a product works. When a user's mental model for how something works doesn't match the model the people who made a product use, you end up with things that are really difficult to use, frustrating end users.

But this book is about a methodology for user research that
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: ux professionals; business strategists
This book is unique in that it is focused on a singular goal and follows the topic through until the reader is fully competent. The singular goal of Mental Models is to teach the reader when-to, and how-to create and use Mental Models for documenting how users think about a problem space (for example: going to the movies).

Mental models are affinity diagrams with purpose.

While I have done a lot of affinity diagramming. I felt that stopping at clusters was and is an underutilization of the time
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
An awful book which will - maybe - hit you down. The method itself sounds interesting BUT it is like Waiting for Godot. 1) It's terribly edited and sometimes chaotic. 2) The core of the book is in the last 3, 4 chapters. The rest is useless (unless you're completely new to the user research) 3) The main focus is on the basics of user research, the method itself and applying it is describe very briefly. 4) So huge research work in reality (higher tens of interviews) just for such small usage? No, ...more
Nov 24, 2011 is currently reading it
Finding interesting alignment with Jeff Patton's work on Story Mapping.
Jun 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: z_2011, non-fiction
I was convinced to read this book to figure out what my Mental Model Konigi Omnigraffle template was for and their website suggested this book.

I think this is a really awesome way to do user personas and finding ways to match the design with the user's needs. The book is oddly detailed in some points explaining exactly how to use a particular program or save a file in a particular format. But overall it is a good step-by-step explanation.

I hope that I will be able to integrate at least some of
Igor Artamonov
Dec 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Describes all details about getting your [potential] customer preferences. About making interview, extracting patterns, understading user needs, etc. Btw, it's more a reference book, or step-by-step guide, and it nothing without a practice.
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: ux-read
This book was only OK. I’m not completely sure if my issues with it are because I’m new to UX, I was reading it to learn theoretically and it would be better to learn practically, or if it’s truly lacking *something*. Regardless, there were definitely multiple editing flaws and I found myself a little bored and unable to connect to the subject at hand.
Pat East
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is a really thorough discussion of using Mental Models as a user-centric design technique. The book is very dense with a lot of information, so it would be helpful to read this multiple times, especially while doing the different portions described.

I would recommend this book for anyone that has the luxury of designing or planning on a team. Having 2-3 people working on this design technique makes a world of difference compared to having only one. That being said, I think that there is
Oct 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Carried this book around for ages and referred back to it again and again. Indi's mental models are relevant for any user experience professional as she gives us a tool to extract user needs that are valid for the long run. This is the stuff personas should be based on.
Jun 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: how-to
Jordan Jackson
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Good read.

Not to be confused with the more general definition of mental models. In the book, Indi is referring to mental model diagrams.

The difference is that a mental model refers to how someone thinks about something as an abstraction, a mental model diagram is the steps of the internal monologue (both conscious and unconscious) that a person takes in order to accomplish a task.

If you are familiar with JTBD theory, this will complement it well - it is sort of like a more granular map of a
Vytas Ramanauskas
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Okay, this wasn't the easiest read ever, but totally worth it. Indi showed an outstanding way of doing user-research, why it matters, and most importantly - how to 'sell' your findings to the stakeholders.

The book is really practical with lots of examples and illustrations, which help a lot to understand better what she's saying.

A mental model is basically the "why?" behind the behaviors, that are getting the most important part to understand if you want to create a valuable and USABLE
Aug 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Nothing revolutionary. If you've ever done user interviews, this is just a way to analyse those interviews in a new way to create content strategy and interaction design from it.
IMO too much work for not much result. You can pull that out over just one meeting right after the user testing.
This is good if you are a consulting user researcher who needs a proof of work in form of extensive documentation.
Go lean. Build, don't write about it.
Imam Maulana
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Menjelaskan cara membangun mental model dari user. Menjabarkan strategi dr awal dlm mencari solusi yg dibutuhkan user, bagaimana teknik interview, mencari data, mencari tau mental model dari user. Sangat cocok terutama ketika awal akan membangun persona, proses menyusun dan melakukan interview user.
Mike Gunderloy
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm glad I read it, and I'll probably never re-read it. Super-structured and prescriptive approach to understanding user needs and then matching them back to product features in order to build better products. At least I've got more understanding of what it is that information architects do.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read this book last year, Loved it!
Sep 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
I never really enjoy using only one process to understand a situation, but rather I believe that using a bunch of different techniques to try to gain insight from a variety of perspectives. This book focuses on one very specific way to build a "mental model," and goes into extreme detail into how to do this. I read this book, and I know for sure that I can walk off and do this, but I also wish that rather than going into mind numbing depth in certain areas ("here's how to build a spread sheet ...more
Roy Kenagy
Oct 29, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Publisher's description:

"There is no single methodology for creating the perfect product—but you can increase your odds. One of the best ways is to understand users' reasons for doing things. Mental Models gives you the tools to help you grasp, and design for, those reasons. Adaptive Path co-founder Indi Young has written a roll-up-your-sleeves book for designers, managers, and anyone else interested in making design strategic, and successful."

I'm getting
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great read. More than just mental models, this book lays out a detailed generative design process beginning at project scoping and moving through mental model generation and product opportunity & gap analysis.

There's a lot of tactical wisdom, even an experienced researcher ought to find a few tricks and techniques to add in to practice. Some of the software-specific procedures and workarounds for generating mental models are becoming out of date in the 6 years since publication.
Andreas Ernst
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
I personally did not enjoy reading this book. In my opinion it does not set a lot of context, does not address the why readers should care are is very tactical. In addition it does not provide a lot of examples which I think would have been really helpful in this case. The only reason why I gave it two stars is because the topic itself - Metal Models - and the design process is really interesting to me.
Bülent Duagi
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Exploration in the world of mental spaces, towers and tasks. The book provides practical advice on learning about the mental models of the users and then using these insights to design better products or services.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is about about a methodology for conducting open interviews and analysing the data in a way that you can easily visualise it to have a better understanding of people's needs and design accordingly.
Jul 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing look at mental models and how they impact design strategy. There are some wonderful techniques and processes included. My only concern that that most of us involved in corporate user experience don't have the time to implement all of the suggestions.

Well written and terrific.
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
I liked the concept, but I think this book and the story telling should have been meshed together. I've put this on my revisit list.
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Basically a detailed step-by-step tutorial on how to create a mental model. I found a few of the chapters to be things that I might be able to try, but the full process involves a lot of overhead.
May 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: consulting
Yes, interesting concept.
No, a one concept book.
Otis Chandler
Feb 22, 2008 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Otis by: Jeffrey
Shelves: wishlist
Jeff recommends it - and learning about good design is a must for any website architect.
Vlad Golovach
Apr 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
Surprisingly shallow and empty book.
Christine Wu
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really helpful for Design strategy and especially user research planning.
Aug 03, 2013 rated it liked it
I thought it'd be more about specific mental models themselves and less about how to go about researching them and how to color-code your Word document, but hey, still useful.
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