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book: mental models

Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior is the first book from the Rosenfeld Media stable.

Mental Models is a very detailed step-by-step guide that gives you everything you could need to know to follow Indi Young’s process. The name ‘Mental Models’ doesn’t really convey the most important (in my opinion) aspect of alignment diagrams, the aligning bit.

The original announcement of the book defined Alignment Diagrams as mental models married to proposed features. Indi explains the debate about the title at the Rosenfeld Media site but I do feel the title only refers to half the process.

Here’s how our UX trading card from the IA Summit explains ‘Alignment Models’:

Diagram that breaks down user activities into discrete tasks, arranges these activities in columns, and then uses the same columns to align the product features, functions, and content that support these activities. May also align business objectives.
Provides gap analysis, shows product opportunities, and helps develop task-based information architecture. Serves as a roadmap, and anchors conversations about future features and content in actual user needs instead of individual stakeholder agendas.

In spite of being familiar with the principle of the method I felt that the book launched into the detail of the first step a little too soon without selling the overall methodology. I found it easy to forget the overall point of the method whilst immersed in the (admitedly very helpful) details of participant recruitment and interviewing. Given possible confusion over the title, this might explain the more baffled review on Amazon.

This is a great book if you know you want to get stuck in and start creating one of these diagrams and to do it properly. It could be a bit overwhelming if you hadn’t already come across the concept.

More detailed review to follow for Freepint…

Written by Karen

June 27th, 2008 at 11:17 am