UI/UX for Devs: An Illustrated Mental Model for Empathy

UI/UX for Devs: An Illustrated Mental Model for Empathy

In a previous blog post I wrote about how mental models help you understand how something works. These models in your mind explain what did happen in the past and provide a reasonable (but not always …

In a previous blog post I wrote about how mental models help you understand how something works. These models in your mind explain what did happen in the past and provide a reasonable (but not always reliable) prediction for will happen in the future. Interestingly, mental models can do that even though they are simplified, incomplete, and often enough simply wrong.

Empathy also has been a topic on my blog; I wrote about what it is and why it is important and why it is good for you, too.

In this article, I combine the two topics and present you my personal mental model of empathy. Note that it is a mental model, not the mental model for empathy. As such, it is, well… simplified, incomplete, and probably wrong. Still, it is “good enough” for many purposes and hey, it comes with pictures!

To start things off, imagine you have developed a non-trivial application as a single developer.

You, the developer

Here you are, living in your frame of reference, depicted as a nondescript coordinate system:

1-1-coords

(I learned at university that axes without units are the worst. Have I told you how mental models are likely to be incomplete?)

Your knowledge about the application

This is what you, the developer, could theoretically know about the application:

1-2-knowledge

You, the user

Now you try to imagine “the user”. Not being the developer of the application, the user is in a different situation:

2-1-situation

A first step is trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes:

2-2-coords

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