Today let’s talk about cognitive models. That’s really a fancy term for how someone thinks about something. It’s taking an action or goal and creating a model in your brain about how you would perform that action. For example, if someone said to “make dinner” then that would mean different things to different people. Some are going to throw something in a microwave, others craft something from what’s in the pantry, others go to a restaurant, and others pull out their cookbooks to pick something appetizing. The cognitive models for different people can differ for the same activity.
As UX professionals, we need to know the cognitive models of our users. If we’re designing within that model then their experience becomes much more enjoyable and seamless than designing something that they have to explore and discover to build a new model. Sometimes that can be a good thing but we still need to know cognitive models in order to be intentional about when we break that rule. Let’s look at some questions to ask when designing and accounting for cognitive models.