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Mental Models and a user's website experience

Put simply, a Mental Model is "the picture I have in my head of how I expect this to work."

In relation to the Information Architecture framework it goes like this:

  • A user arrives at your website and gets presented with a whole lot of information

  • They then need to process this information

  • They can then make a decision.

Inside of the processing is the Mental Model, and it includes pre-existing expectations.

Mental Models and Web Design - OMG Solutions

Expectations generally come from past experiences a user has had on other websites, namely “what am I looking for, and how I will find it.”

If I am on an e-commerce website I may be looking for:

  • a search bar

  • how to sort the products by price or reviews

  • where the contact details are, etc.

For me I’ll look in the footer, or up in the top right hand side for a phone number – everyone is different, and there are industry norms that the user expects too.

It’s really important to consider the mental model a user may have before visiting your website so you can plan your content structure and user journey accordingly.

To find out more about Information Architecture and how this can shape your user's journey read here.


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