Improving task flows, concept maps: Better boxes & arrows (was: Defining the mental model - Expectations)

2 Mar 2005 - 4:21pm
1656 reads
Austin Govella

Eugene Chen wrote:
> I've always thought the right way to document mental model would be with
> concept maps (circle-and-line-diagrams), where you define key nouns within
> the system and their relationships from the user's perspective. e.g. "I want
> to organize my PHOTOS into ALBUMS. But WITHIN ALBUMS, I have FAVORITES. And
> these I want to GIVE to a FRIEND on a CD". So for photos, concepts like
> EMAIL, PRINT, and TIME may be primary in the mental model, even if FORMAT,
> COPMRESSION, and RESOLUTION are primary in the implementation model.

My problem with circle and line diagrams, or even the average task
flow is that we have words inside the shapes, but often we don't have
any words for the connectors, whether they're arrows on a flow, or
merely connectors on the circle and line type diagrams.

Usually the words inside the shape highlight the deliverables main
focus. On a task flow, the words inside the shapes typically indicate
a task in the flow. But I've always had trouble annotating the context
that the connectors provide.

In the concept map Eugene suggested, the shapes are marked with nouns
like photos, albums, and favourites, but those nouns are connected
with more words. It seems hard to stick all the connecting words on
the diagram.

Here are some examples some flows I found with a quick Google:

Do any of you have any tips for annotating how things are connected?
For adding more context to your deliverables? I've been trying to work
content and behavior into one diagram. I have a sample online:

(I've tried to attach it to this message, but I'm not sure if it will
make it to the list.)

I've added a column for the content to illustrate what the user sees,
and I've added areas to illustrate how engaged the user is, as well as
a column showing conversion points where the user moves from group to

In addition to alternative methods for annotating or adding more
context, are there any suggestions for improving this flow? Things to
add or remove? (The objective is to document the 'user experience' as
it's designed/architected so you remmeber what was going on when you
move to production).

Austin Govella
Thinking & Making: IA, UX, and IxD
austin at
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