People have now read and referred to my 2013 column How Do Users Really Hold Mobile Devices? almost too much for my comfort. Why? Because, since I wrote that column, I have continued to do research, put my findings into practice for real products, written additional articles, and presented on that topic. In the years since then, I’ve learned a lot more about how people hold and touch their phones and tablets—a lot of which I did’t expect. And that’s the problem with my old columns. I made some assumptions that were based on observations of the usage of desktop PCs, standards for older types of interactions, and anecdotes or misrepresented data. However, through my later research and better analysis, I’ve been able to discard all of those erroneous assumptions and reveal the truth.
All too often, I see people referring to my oldest, least-accurate columns on this topic. Sometimes readers combine my obsolete data with other out-of-date information, then draw their own incorrect conclusions. I hope put a stop to that now with this updated overview of everything I know about how people interact with touchscreen devices and how you can use that information to design better digital products. Read More
Mental models derive from human perceptions. Kenneth Craik hypothesized about mental models in the mid-40s. His goal was a general clarification of human thought, taking into account the way people relate to the world through mental models. Basically, a mental model is a person’s intuitive understanding of how something functions based on his or her past encounters, exposure to information, and sound judgment.
What people perceive is completely subjective and depends on the way things appear to them. For example, imagine that someone tells a kid a frightening story about swimming. The child will hold that image in his mind for a long time and, thus, think of swimming as a perilous thing—until external forces contradict that idea and he learns to see things differently. Similarly, for some, investing in stocks is a risky affair. A person’s mental model that investing in the stock market is risky guides that person’s decision not to invest in stocks. Read More
In my last column, “Decision Architecture: Helping Users Make Better Decisions,” I talked about how people make decisions and what affects their decision-making process. Although it’s a common assumption that people are largely goal oriented and know what they want, research on decision making has shown that our preferences are actually quite malleable—especially when we encounter something new.
What affects decision outcomes most is the actual context in which people make decisions. All kinds of things affect decision making—the type of decision someone is making, the decision maker’s level of expertise, the number of options available, the way and order in which options are presented, and many others. This column examines how the number of available options affects the decision-making process. Read More