Thursday, March 12, 2009

ID FMP: Map of Relationship Between Conceptual and Mental Models

Developed by Don Norman, the model illustrated below demonstrates how relationship between a designer’s conceptual model and a user’s mental model is mediated by the system image of products or services.

So here is my explanation of what this model means: Designers develop product and service systems based on conceptual models [define] that they create or borrow. I use the terms product and service systems [define] refer to the ecosystem that encompasses products, services and their related artifacts and resources; these can include assets such as manuals and knowledge bases, and resource such as user groups and communities.

Users do not have access to the conceptual models of designers. Their understanding of how a product works is developed based on their interactions with the product itself, their previous experiences with the world, and their existing knowledge and expertise. All of these considerations affect how people interpret their experiences with a product, and the mental model [define] they create to explain how products work.

The term system [define] image refers to the way a product or service system actually appears to a user. System images are always imperfect representations of the conceptual models upon which they were built. For a product to be usable the system image needs to enable users to develop an accurate mental model of how relevant aspects of a product or service works.

An interesting feature of Norman’s 1988 model, is that designers relationship with system images is represented as a one-way phenomenon. This implies that once a product has been designed there is little opportunity for on-going improvements. During the last 20 years advances in technology and design methodology have made it possible for designers to continuously fine-tune product and service systems. This is especially true in the increasingly service-based world of software.

Bjoern Hartmann has revised Norman’s model to reflect the opportunity for designers to play an on-going role in improving the system image of the products they’ve created. The model he proposes includes a feedback loop that enables the user to communicate to the designer via the system image.

Hartmann posits that user-initiated feedback via the system will help identify mismatches between the designer’s conceptual model and the user’s model of how the system functions. Another important consideration is that offering an instantaneous feedback option in the same media on which the interaction is taking place will generate more reliable and richer data than feedback elicited later, or via a different channel.

[Sourced from Don Norman’s website, though I know Norman's framework was also featured in this book The Design of Everyday Things; Paper by Bjoern Hartmann written during graduate studies at Standford]

** What the hell is ID FMP? **

No comments: