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  • provide further information and understanding in the following areas:
    • users ("who?")
    • tasks ("what?", "how?")
    • context ("where, when, why?")

Proposed Method

  • Mental Models by Indi Young
    • qualitative method
    • based on open interviews (no questionnaires)
  • Further information on this method is available, see:
    • The book (rosenfeld media) Mental Models
    • excerpts available for online reading via paperc (German website, free account required, book in English)
    • The author explaining the method in this Video
    • diagrams from the book on flickr


Course of Actions

  1. define audience based on product vision
  2. set scope
  3. recruit interview partners
  4. conduct interviews
    • at least 4 interviews per audience segment
    • focus: tasks, behaviours and philosophies of users
  5. transcribe interviews
  6. analyze results
    • distillation of tasks, behaviours and philosophies into patterns
    • create graphic of patterns in a mental model
    • oppose mental model vs. existing functionality
  7. make use
    • gap analysis (planned and existing functionality vs. users' behavior, needs and tasks)
    • adjust user scenarios / audience segments
    • derive stragety for development
    • prioritize features (importance vs. feasability)

pros and cons

  • (+) pros
    • fundamental research, broad focus, high-level
    • detailed analysis of users and their tasks
    • research is built on existing findings
    • verification of user scenarios / audience segments
    • based on tasks and behavior
    • adaptable / scalable method
    • supports strategic vision and long-term development
    • revision and clarification of user scenarios
  • (-) cons
    • fundamental research, broad focus, high-level
    • no immediate improvements
    • complex method
    • not all existing findings are considered


  • primer (20-40 page pdf about users, tasks, context)
  • Mental Model Diagram
    • one diagram per audience segment
    • tasks organized in "Mental Spaces" of users
    • justified audience segments based on tasks
    • gap analysis