The Models We Use

Jared Spool

January 9th, 2012

Bet you didn’t know this: Cars in rush-hour traffic exhibit the same basic behaviors as a spring. As the cars get closer to each other, they slow down. After coming to near stop, the cars start to get farther apart and speed up. The cycle repeats, just like a spring expanding and contracting.

Physicists figured this out, creating a data model of the rush-hour traffic. They then compared the data points to that of the moving spring. The results looked practically identical. They can use this information to help design new systems to relieve traffic congestion.

Models like this help us know how to design better. They tell us why the same patterns keep forming before us and give us hints to take advantage of their predictive behaviors.

Here are some of the models we regularly use here at UIE:

The Kano Model

Made by Noriaka Kano, this model shows us the relationship of a customers satisfaction to the effort and investment we make our designs. We use this model to predict when a feature is something that will delight our users and when it’ll be a basic expectation, and the most important point: most delighters eventually become basic expectations.

Market Maturity

One of the first models we created, this shows the stages a technology goes through, with regard to how it’s market receives it. We’ve used this model to understand how an organization’s management perceives the importance of user experience. It also helps us prevent fatal timing mistakes, where competitors can overtake market leaders because they miss important cues.

The Four Stages of Competence

Noel Bursch’s model that describes how someone moves from incompetence to skill mastery. This model is a recent favorite of ours for explaining how to help our users master complex designs.

The Magic Escalator of Acquired Knowledge

We created this model to help teams understand how users perceive a design’s complexity. It shows us how to simplify designs and what happens when we introduce major changes.

The Scent of Information

This model shows us how users move through an information-rich web site. We can use it to predict when a design is easy to navigate and where it’s putting up obstacles to users getting into trouble.

Core vs. Ring

An old model that we’re finding useful in today’s world, as it explains how people behave differently when they’re doing something that’s core to their experience versus something that’s ancillary. It helps predict how much someone will stick with a bad design and when they’ll just give up.

Hands vs. Brains

This model talks about the people teams want to hire and how to best employ them. It predicts why some smart employees struggle in some jobs while others thrive.

Design Decision Styles

This model outlines five different styles for making design decisions. Using it, we can identify what a team needs to do to inform their decision making process. It also helps us tell when there’s a mismatch in the team’s composition or approach.

When we’re working with teams, we regularly mix and match the models. Complicated problems can usually be explained by combining several models, until we get new ideas for the solutions that move us forward.

What models have you been using? How are the useful?

3 Responses to “The Models We Use”

  1. Russ Says:

    Have you seen “The Decision Book” by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tsch├Ąppeler? I’d say it’s a nice thumbnail sketch of about 50 different models (beyond what you have here); I’ve just started paging through it, and I’d call it a nice add-on to your post.

  2. Jared Spool Says:

    Hadn’t seen that. Added to my wish list. :)

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