Conceptual Models

Conceptual Models
Core to Good Design

Jeff Johnson, Austin Henderson
ISBN: 9781608457496 | PDF ISBN: 9781608457502
Copyright © 2011 | 110 Pages | Publication Date: 01/01/2011

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People make use of software applications in their activities, applying them as tools in carrying out tasks. That this use should be good for people--easy, effective, efficient, and enjoyable--is a principal goal of design. In this book, we present the notion of Conceptual Models, and argue that Conceptual Models are core to achieving good design. From years of helping companies create software applications, we have come to believe that building applications without Conceptual Models is just asking for designs that will be confusing and difficult to learn, remember, and use.

We show how Conceptual Models are the central link between the elements involved in application use: people's tasks (task domains), the use of tools to perform the tasks, the conceptual structure of those tools, the presentation of the conceptual model (i.e., the user interface), the language used to describe it, its implementation, and the learning that people must do to use the application. We further show that putting a Conceptual Model at the center of the design and development process can pay rich dividends: designs that are simpler and mesh better with users' tasks, avoidance of unnecessary features, easier documentation, faster development, improved customer uptake, and decreased need for training and customer support.

Table of Contents

Using Tools
Start with the Conceptual Model
Definition
Structure
Example
Essential Modeling
Optional Modeling
Process
Value
Epilogue

About the Author(s)

Jeff Johnson, UI Wizards, Inc.
Jeff Johnson is President and Principal Consultant at Wiser Usability, a consulting firm specializing in elder usability and accessibility. He has worked in the field of Human-Computer Interaction since 1978. After earning B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale and Stanford Universities, he worked as a user-interface designer and implementer, engineer manager, usability tester, and researcher at Cromemco, Xerox, US West, Hewlett-Packard Labs, and Sun Microsystems. He has taught at Stanford University and Mills College,and in 2006 was an Erskine Teaching Fellow at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch New Zealand. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on a variety of topics in Human-Computer Interaction and the impact of technology on society. He frequently gives talks and tutorials at conferences and companies on usability and user-interface design. His previous books are: GUI Bloopers: Don’ts and Dos for Software Developers and Web Designers (2000), Web Bloopers: 60 Common Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them (2003), GUI Bloopers 2.0: Common User Interface Design Don’ts and Dos(2007), and Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules(2010).

Austin Henderson, Rivendel Consulting & Design
Austin Henderson's 45-year career in Human-Computer Interaction includes user interface research and architecture at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, Bolt Beranek and Newman, Xerox Research (both PARC and EuroPARC), Apple Computer, and Pitney Bowes, as well as strategic industrial design with Fitch and his own Rivendel Consulting & Design. Austin has built both commercial and research applications in many domains including manufacturing, programming languages, air traffic control, electronic mail (Hermes), user interface design tools (Trillium),workspace management (Rooms, Buttons), distributed collaboration (MediaSpace), and user-evolvable systems (Tailorable - "design continued in use," Pliant - "designing for the unanticipated" and "scalable conversations"). These applications, and their development with users, have grounded his analytical work, which has included the nature of computation-based socio-technical systems, the interaction of people with the technology in those systems, and the practices and tools of their development. The primary goal of his work has been to better meet user needs, both by improving system development to better anticipate those needs, and by broadening system capability to enable users themselves to better respond to unanticipated needs when they arise in a rich and changing world.

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