Users will refer to their own mental models when navigating systems and other technological devices. “People form mental models through observation, immersive experience, and culture.” (Ballav, 2016) Which also means that not all people have those same experiences and observations.
Think about that for a minute—the success of your website, electronic device, application software etc., may largely be influenced by what the user expects it to do when they click that icon or swipe up on the screen or check that box in the corner. Furthermore, not all individuals are exposed to the same time of information and experiences, so their understanding could be vastly different. Mental models are only part of the world as viewed by the individual. So symbols, icons etc can be viewed very differently by different people thus dictating whether or not they grasp the information you are trying to provide or if they struggle with it.
UX designers need to consider users’ mental models when designing websites and other devices to help with its success. If a user has trouble understanding and navigating a website, they’re more likely to get frustrated and not purchase your tablet or cellphone and may never visit your website again. So while a UX designer may believe that placing the search button on the top left corner of a website, the users mental model dictates that it should be on the top right corner—and the best way to figure out where the ‘correct’ placement should be, would be to conduct some user testing. This can include card sorting, surveys and interviews and the results arising from these tests will probably have to continually shift and change over the years as different people begin using your product and new research alerts of possible new issues.
It would also appear that UX design is constantly adapting and changing. For instance, if more users report having issues using a website, there’s little to no engagement, or websites have high bounce rates or exit rates, it could be due to a UX issue where customers are not enjoying their experience while on your site and it may be time to re-evaluate. Left ignored, bad user experience could lead to fewer sales and overall profits which will affect the overall business.
Ballav, A. (2016, May 17). Mental Models and User Experience. Retrieved from https://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2016/05/mental-models-and-user-experience.php
Nielson, J. (2010, October 17). Mental Models. Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/mental-models/