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User models as a basis for Web design: Introduction

Download a copy of this paper (105 KB)

The focus of this paper is organizing a Web application based on an understanding of the users' model of the tasks involved. A user model is a reflection of users' understanding of a product. It includes how they perceive the objects and activities involved in the operation of the product. A user model document may include descriptions of some typical users and scenarios representing the tasks they will do.

This paper covers some recent projects at Interaction Design:

(bullet symbol) Rezz, a hotel reservation system. This application works as a sub-site associated with Web sites for conferences and other events. As with many Web applications, Rezz has many types of users. Experience in the hotel industry, use of a previous prototype, information from call centers and usability testing helped us understand the user model for the product. (Product and client names had to be removed for this application.)

(bullet symbol) PrintWizard, an application that I designed for Digital Equipment Corporation. It allows system administrators to manage printers on a network. The application's pages presented printer parameters to be set or viewed. The user group here is more cohesive: system administrators, who all share a reasonable understanding of the task.

(bullet symbol) Boston.com, a large information site that I reviewed. This online magazine provides information about Boston and is produced by a subsidiary of the Boston Globe newspaper. This site has the most variety in its user base. In the brief review project I did, I used general ideas about design and usability on the Web.

Topics in choosing and using the right user model for your Web application: