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Alex Genov <[log in to unmask]>
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Alex Genov <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 May 2006 06:11:07 -0700
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I agree with Eugene's point.  The earlier example I gave of do-it-yourself tax preparation software fits the goal-oriented vs. control-oriented dichotomy quite well.  Some people want to enter some numbers and be done, while others want to play with the numbers to see different outcomes.  To be able to navigate the complex structure of 1000's of pages (corresponding to fields in 100's of IRS forms), just having the opportunity to easily go from page to page will not do.  And once you give users some sort of a site "map" or "index", you are exposing the structure to them and are helping them build a mental model of it.

Another example is video games.  I am not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination but have seen enough games which give the opportunity to navigate through dark corridors, while at the same time looking at a map of the castle with the current position of the player clearly indicated.  A LOT of user research goes into the creation of these games and one cannot simply brush this off as bad practice.

Considering the diversity of software out there, sweeping generalizations (pro or against) regarding the value of mental model creation is not a good thing for our profession ...

Alex Genov
Staff User Researcher
Intuit, Inc.

Eugene Chen <[log in to unmask]> wrote: I think there is some risk to overstating the case against mental models.

While poor designs have made "transparent" or "invisible" technologies a
fine ideal, well-designed technologies are often a joy to use and master.
Also, I'm afraid technology is really *not* going to go away. Certainly it
would be nice if the majority of technology were tucked out of sight, but
the overall quantity is still going to increase. Technology is becoming the
environment. Invisible technology is actually a little spooky.

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