As a UX designer, I am often asking for the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of others. This creates stronger designs by helping us (designers) meet people where they already are. When faced with a plethora of options or information, a great way to begin to organize all of it is to create a mind map, cognitive map, or concept map. These allow you to “brain dump” all conceivable paths, motivations, and influences as they relate to, well, any topic you are studying that involves human behavior. More on the differences between these three types of maps can be found in this excellent video by the Nielsen Norman Group.
The mind map above, for example, explores why and where people choose to send text messages. It’s a huge question, to be sure, and this mind map likely only covers a portion of the many, many reasons we love to communicate instantly with each other. In this case, I was able to take the information collected from user research and sort it in ways that helped me understand who my users are, what motivates them, and in which situations they might be texting. More importantly, it uncovered places where these might cross over, revealing trends in user behavior that are important to consider when creating my design.
Despite my assumptions and biases, I am often pleasantly surprised by what I discover when conducting user research. Our thoughts and feelings toward things can be as different as you’d expect or more similar than you ever would have imagined. The more you are able to dig into the “Why?”, the more you will uncover. A mind map is one tool that can help clear the chaos and tie together the threads that we have in common with one another. So lean in, open your mind to freely flow with what you’ve learned, begin to create your own map, and see what “lightbulb moments” reveal themselves to you.