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Chapter 3. The Web Environment > The Site Environment

The Site Environment

Designers should pay particular attention to users' expectations of how a Web site is organized and how they can use it. These expectations are related to users' stored knowledge based on previous experience with real-world settings. The representation of knowledge based on previous experience can be expressed in terms of schemata, scripts, and mental models. A schema is a mental representation of general knowledge about events, actions, and objects. A script is a fixed instance of a schema leading to specific outcomes. To express a schema, we store and use scripts. We use a script to describe a fixed schema in a specific environment (Schank and Abelson, 1977). Mental models allow us to adapt our schemata and scripts to novel and slightly different environments.

Understanding users' mental models requires specifying how users represent both structural and functional knowledge about their environment. For example, using the subway system in Munich requires a structural representation of the system that orients the rider to key Munich locations. Figure 3.4 is an example of a structured knowledge representation that shows the complete system with various locations and directions, plus the fact that there are two main lines—the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn—each of which has several sublines that intersect at various points.


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