Hannah Knowles


April 28, 2023

Mental models as a UX Research framework

We focus our research methods into understanding what's happening right now with your product, service or users so you can drive decisions for future users.


  • When should I start this process? At the start of a product development, this is especially crucial for new technology.How do users other experiences shape what they expect to happen with yours?
  • To know when users make decisions and how does your product fit with their decision process.
  • They help you understand how your user thinks your product is going to work
  • Learn how to bridge gaps between their mental model and your service/product

What is a mental model?

Think of this as a framework for how you think, make decisions and how we decide what to do in new situations.

We create our models based upon our experiences and we use them as a shortcut to our reasoning. They help us navigate our way through complex situations.

“Mental models include your basic ideas of what something is or how it is supposed to work.”

How does this fit with designing a product or service?

Within research and design, one of our aims is to create frameworks for how our users think. We do this:

  • within the development of personas
  • testing your product
  • finding “usability” problems. It helps us to create empathy with the users. We want to shrink the gap that exists between the business, technology and users.

We're trying to align to existing mental models. Its not about finding new mental models, its about knowing when to apply them.

That's why researchers are always trying to learn about the main moments that impact decision making processes.

“Some characteristics of mental models are that they are incomplete in nature and constantly evolve. While mental models are never a completely accurate representation of a thing, they provide simple representations of complex phenomena”

What to do once I have one?

1.Create your own design framework.

Work closely with your product team (designer, researchers and designers) and build into set of design principles. This can be common things that your users need or expect when using your service.

2.Use the model to map your findings.

Study your product through usability testing and map these findings as mental model. The focus should be on finding challenging decision points for users.

3.Build decision diagrams

Build decision models as there’s only so many things that impact your users decision. They are simple behaviours that tend not to change easily, read a great example here, mindsets by Fjord in finance.

Should I use a mental model instead of personas/mindsets?

A persona is a set of characteristics, behaviors and attitudes. Whereas a mental model is the process that somebody goes through to make a decision.

Persona’s have a bad reputation, but mental models and personas are both frameworks. Learning which one is best for your analysis and insights is where the focus should be

Why does this help with a new product to the market?

Models help our minds deal with new situations, even if we are familiar with it or not. Humans don’t like change so you need to know how much of a gap you are working with. The gap  between what users know now and the product/technology you want them to use is design.

So is it critical?

Nothing is that critical. It’s a framework but pretty magical when you have the data to make it into something useful.

WorkieTicket focuses on the gaps of FemTech experiences, we want to find every way to close the gap for women. Frameworks help us with designing for the gaps.

More resources

UX trends in FemTech

Elenor Riches


April 24, 2023

Free Tools for UX Research in FemTech

Elenor Riches


April 24, 2023

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