UseIt Definition of Mental Models

A definition of Mental Models from Jakob Nielsen:

A mental model is what the user believes about the system at hand.

Note the two important elements of this definition:

  • A mental model is based on belief, not facts: that is, it’s a model of what users know (or think they know) about a system such as your website. Hopefully, users’ thinking is closely related to reality because they base their predictions about the system on their mental models and thus plan their future actions based on how that model predicts the appropriate course. It’s a prime goal for designers to make the user interface communicate the system’s basic nature well enough that users form reasonably accurate (and thus useful) mental models.
  • Individual users each have their own mental model. A mental model is internal to each user’s brain, and different users might construct different mental models of the same user interface. Further, one of usability’s big dilemmas is the common gap between designers’ and users’ mental models. Because designers know too much, they form wonderful mental models of their own creations, leading them to believe that each feature is easy to understand. Users’ mental models of the UI are likely to be somewhat more deficient, making them more likely to make mistakes and find the design much more difficult to use.

No matter what you think, your users have a different idea what the site does than you do.

And…

Remember Jakob’s Law of the Internet User Experience: Users spend most of their time on websites other than yours. Thus a big part of customers’ mental models of your site will be influenced by information gleaned from other sites.

New Super Wi-Fi: Will it Deliver?

Wi-Fi and other technologies that are supposed to make wireless connectivity ubiquitous have been somewhat slow in coming and we are often hearing ‘great things are around the corner’ but they have not truly delivered. This article on Wired.com By Ryan Singel looks into what might be possible with the new lower frequency Wi-Fi being researched now.

Wifi! By Florian Boyd/flickr. Used with gratitude via a Creative Commons license.

In late September, the FCC announced it would be freeing up spectrum from television broadcasters and opening it to public use to create “super Wi-Fi.”

Tech industry groups and public interests groups hailed the new “white-space spectrum” as a way to expand upon the success of the open frequencies that allow anyone to set up a Wi-Fi radio hot spot in their house or coffee shop, without needing to buy spectrum or get a license.

But what will this super-Wi-Fi look like in practice? Will it replace the 3G service we pay for for our smartphones? How fast will it be? Will we need new equipment or can our current laptops and cellphones just be upgraded?

Wired.com asked the experts at smart Wi-Fi equipment maker Ruckus Wireless in Sunnyvale, California, to find out.

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Oakland Police Getting Dog & Wildlife Training

Oakland police officers must now take dog and wildlife courses.

The order for mandatory training in dog and wildlife handling comes after high-profile shootings of a barking dog and a confused deer in neighborhood backyards.

The free training by the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will include several hours of instruction on dog behavior, local wildlife habits and alternatives to shooting animals.

The Oakland Police Department’s entire 679-officer force will be required to undergo the training once a year.

Oakland animal control director Megan Webb says it’s designed to make sure animals are treated humanely.

Two weeks ago, a barking 11-year-old arthritic yellow Labrador retriever was shot when officers entered a backyard in search of a burglar. In May, officers shot a fawn in a backyard.

More on the story in the San Jose Mercury.