Finding out what users really think: using cognitive modelling to improve icon design.

Authors: McDougall, S., De Bruijn, O. and Curry, M.

Editors: Harris, D.

Volume: 4

Pages: 173-180

Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Limited

Place of Publication: Aldershot, Hampshire


Designers assume that users' mental models change as a result of the visual information presented to them at the interface. Since icons form an important part of most interface displays, this study examined the extent to which the users' mental models were affected by the nature of the icon used to represent functions on an interface.

Ratings were obtained from users of the perceived relationships between problems users were required to solve on an interface and the solutions which were offered by one of 3 icon sets. Pathfinder analysis was used to access the structure of users' 'mental maps' of the system. Analysis of relatedness ratings revealed that those using pictorial and abstract icon sets were able to learn icon-relationships quickly. However, further analysis revealed that those using icon sets appeared to have a 'fuzzier', less definitive, conception of the interface. The implications for icon design are discussed.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Sine McDougall