A Method for Mapping and Measuring Users' Mental Models of the Depth/Breadth Tradeoff

N. Yuviler-Gavish (Israel) and A. Parush (Canada)


Mental models; navigation structure; card sorting; cluster analysis.


Understanding users’ mental models can improve design and testing of interactive systems. Yet, the extraction of users’ mental models and their representation are still a tough challenge. We addressed this question by focusing on how the depth/breadth tradeoff in web navigation structures is reflected in users’ mental models. The approach presented here is based on gathering the data in an unlimited-hierarchy variation of card sorting technique and analyzing the results using hierarchic cluster analysis visualized with dendograms. We report a pilot study of our approach and compare the hierarchic cluster analysis and dendograms with ANOVA. The findings show significantly different perceptions of breadth versus depth in two different devices, a desktop computer and cellular phone. These findings are in contrast with findings of more traditional mental model assessment approaches, thus validating the necessity and the usefulness of the purposed new approach.

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