Jennifer Coffey

Grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and enjoy!

Reading Directions

Imagine a new social media app just got launched. You already have a “mental model” of what the app is going to look like. You know there will be an option to post social content such as a picture, video, or text. Your mental models are the expectations and assumptions of the user interface design (Weinschenk, 2011). 

A mental model represents a person’s thought process for how something works (i.e., a person’s understanding of the surrounding world). Mental models are based on incomplete facts, past experiences, and even intuitive perceptions. They help shape actions and behavior, influence what people pay attention to in complicated situations, and define how people approach and solve problems.

Susan Carey’s Cognitive Science and Science Education

Even though these assumptions and predictions can speed up the learning process, in some situations, they are more harmful than good (Nielson, 2010). I make assumptions about new products and apps all the time. I skill through walkthroughs, skip directions, and I usually miss crucial information. I then become confused and frustrated and stop using the app or product. This has nothing to do with the product or service, but because I didn’t follow directions, they lost out on a potential sale. 

This is why “help” buttons that assist with instructions, tutorials, and demos are crucial to making sure users know how to use the product. Now that I have become aware of these assumptions, I will do better in the future to make sure that I follow all of the tutorials to get the best experience out of the app or product. 


Nielson, J. (2010, October 17). Mental Models and User Experience Design. Retrieved from

Weinschenk, S. (2011, October 8). The Secret to Designing an Intuitive UX: Match the Mental Model to. Retrieved from

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