Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior
Quantifying design is a concept that many consider blasphemous. Yet, we realize that the value of design is under scrutiny. Often we are asked "what is the value of good design?" or "how much does good design cost?" As we know, 'good design' is subjective and can vary greatly, depending upon your organization, audience and product. To better understand what 'good design' is, it's best to evaluate if your design is fulfilling the needs of its users. To help simplify the process and to outline useful design strategies, the folks at Rosenfeld Media offer Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior. Written by Indi Young, co-founder of Adaptive Path and a skilled and knowledgeable presence in the world of interaction and navigation design as well as research methods, the book offers a step-by-step guide to understanding, developing and implementing mental models. Despite its new-age name, mental models are quite basic and are used very often. You probably already use them. Described as an "affinity diagram of user behaviors surrounding a particular topic", Young leads the reader through the whats and hows of mental models.

Affinity Diagram

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Sample Affinity Diagram

Affinity diagrams, in the simplest interpretation, show groups of related things. You can make an affinity diagram out of your grocery list. (Young, Indi. 2008. Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior. New York: Rosenfeld Media.) Young is confident that when grounded in common sense, mental models can enhance your design strategies and can prove to be powerful change agents. At its very core, "designing something requires that you completely understand what a person wants to get done". With this she not only provides a psychological basis for how a user's behavior affect design, but also its practical approach for structuring the support you and your team will need to implement mental models. By using task-based initiatives that work to probe consumers for information about how they decide, use and recommend products, Young shows the readers how to arrange interviews, analyze data and integrate results into design concepts. Each chapter is laid out clearly and concisely, with helpful diagrams and checklists. Those in the social sciences will revel in its qualitative and intuitive approach, yet those in the hard science will appreciate its straightforward and simplistic tone. In the end, Mental Models provides readers with the means to gather research-driven design principles that can be easily presented. While all design aims to provide users with something useful, it's often hard to show upon what those needs are based. Until now. Order your copy of Mental Models today and learn how to create the perfect product that's based on strategic design. CMSWire readers can use the code CMSWIRE to receive10% off at the Rosenfeld Media site.