UI12: Mental Models & Magic

by Luke Wroblewski November 7, 2007

Jared Spool’s dependably entertaining Mental Models & Magic keynote at User Interface 12 focused on the corollaries between magic and user experience design.

  • Mental modes, perception, and delight –are the tricks of a magician’s trade. These are the same techniques that designers use to create illusions in products.
  • When doing magic, you have to separate the viewer’s mental model from the magicians’ mental model. They only comprehend the event through their lens.
  • Google’s simplicity is an illusion. There’s a very complex back-end system running things. Flickr’s photo URLs are an illusion. No files are really stored at those locations.
  • Designers can suggest mental models that are different from the way things actually work.
  • Role of perception: progress indicators make time gaps seem shorter.
  • In a test run by UIE, people consistently rated the fastest site as the slowest and the slowest as the fastest. Task completion had far more effect on whether people thought a site was fast or slow than the actual speed of the site.
  • Simple tricks can take advantage of a user’s perceptions and make the design feel more responsive than it really is.
  • Delight: have to meet basic expectations to develop delight. Really give people. What is delightful over time becomes basic expectations.