Your users are mental

[imageIn writing Designing Social, Erin and I wanted to include as many voices as possible and represent a wide variety of perspectives. We did this by stealing coopting curating many patterns and tropes already unearthed and documented by smart web people over the past decade and we also invited a large roster of brilliant web folk to contribute essays.

Bit by bit we are making sure all the essays are available online, either hosted on their authors’ blogs or personal websites or in some cases included in the project’s wiki.

Recently, my colleague Tom Hughes-Croucher reprinted his essay on your users’ mental models on his blog, and I think it’s worth reading even if you aren’t designing or developing (yet) in a social context. I love his first line: “One of the things I like about computers is their ability to create magic,” and – to me – the nut graf is here:

The Web is probably one of the least benign environments for a user on their computer and yet it is arguably the most successful computing platform. Using the Web there are numerous contextual or circumstantial errors than can occur, however the majority of users have no mental model with which to understand and recover from them.

…but “read the whole thing” as we used to say on the blogterwebs.

(image courtesy of Mary Harrsch)

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