Saturday, March 14, 2009

ID FMP: Framework for Developing Conceptual Models

We keep on coming back to conceptual models [define]. The reason being, a well-designed conceptual model is a fundamental element of successful product and service systems. To develop a well-articulated conceptual model designers need to think through the main metaphors, concepts, actions, and relationships of the systems they are designing before developing prototypes of any sort (including wireframes, drawings, renderings, etc).

Don Norman’s and Bjoern Hartmann’s model provides insight into how designers’ conceptual models interact and relate to a users’ mental models. It does not, however, provide any guidance to help designer synthesize conceptual models.

Johnson and Herderson’s framework, published in 2002, was developed with this purpose in mind. This framework identifies the standard components of a conceptual model. It provides a blueprint that designer can use to develop conceptual models. Here is an overview of the four components of conceptual model as defined by Johnson and Henderson:
  • Major Metaphors and Analogies: Identify important metaphors and analogies used to enable the user to understand what a product does and how to use it.
  • Concepts: Define the concepts that users are exposed to and that they need to understand, including the objects the concepts create and manipulate, any relevant attributes, and the operations that can be performed on the concept.
  • Relationships and Actions: Identify the relationships between concepts, including whether an object contains another, or is part of it, and the relative importance of objects and actions.
  • Mappings: Define the mappings between the metaphors and concepts and the user experience the product is designed to invoke.
Examples of this framework in action (albeit one developed by someone with little to no experience working with it) are available on two of my recent posts:
  • The first was developed in response an exercise from the book Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction.
  • The second was written as a personal exercise for me to apply this conceptual framework to develop a silly pet product idea that I had been toying around with for a while.
[source: Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction]

** What the hell is ID FMP? **

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