Web Design and Mental Models: Help Users Navigate Your Site

Web Design and Mental Models: Help Users Navigate Your Site

Ever wonder what goes on when a user interacts with your site? Understanding this relationship will help you design a better user experience. In this blog, we’ll go over mental models and their role in web design.

What are mental models?

Users develop mental models — consciously or not — when they learn a new system. This Econsultancy article explains that the system could be a store, a website, the process of buying a car, and limitless other scenarios:

“Simply put, a mental model is what the user believes about a particular system. This system doesn’t have to be a digital product or service, it could be anything from a supermarket store to the entire end-to-end journey of buying a car.”

Can you think of a mental model you’ve designed before? We use and design them all of the time.

Mental models are not always correct

An important point is that mental models are not always correct. This is often the sign of something gone wrong in regard to the system’s design.

An example is people calling for elevators. Some people smash the button several times and believe that it will send the elevator sooner. It’s a kind of “more is more” model.

That, of course, is not how elevators work. There aren’t serious consequences here, but some incorrect mental models can undermine the user experience.

Help users develop a correct mental model 

When users visit your site, they’ll develop a mental model regarding its navigation. Your goal is to help users design an accurate model so they’ll find the necessary information on your site.

You can do this in a few ways:

  • Providing relevant, understandable feedback
  • Creating a consistent user interface
  • Giving context-sensitive information

If someone wants to sign up for your email newsletter but isn’t entering a valid email address, then your feedback should correct their mistake. In broader terms, you should design your site so that navigation comes intuitively.

To talk more about web design, or anything else, contact us today.