Mental models, a form of ethnographic research, can help you
define the behaviors of your users. Mental models identify the
common needs and behaviors of our key audiences, including the
underpinning philosophies and emotions behind certain actions.
We have created several models that apply to our audiences
here at UB.
Match seekers include prospective students and faculty
members who are trying to find out if UB, or your department or
unit in particular, is a good fit for them.
Prideful belongers include people like alumni who have a
special bond with UB or your department and are looking to connect
or reconnect. Current students, staff and faculty members are part
of this group.
Active supporters, just like prideful belongers, have a
special bond with UB or your department. But supporters also are
actively engaged in supporting UB through volunteering, donating,
special projects or initiatives based on altruistic motives –
making the world, or the local community, a better place and
improving the lives of others.
While our main audiences are made up of match seekers, prideful
belongers and active supporters, there are two other models that
are not as prevalent, but also apply to your unit or
Pulsetakers monitor UB’s activities and progress in
general or on a specific issue or research area that is important
to them. They may have an affiliation with an organization, such as
prideful belongers and active supporters, and may be considering an
affiliation, as a student or an employee. Pulsetakers also may have
no relationship with the organization, but are passionate about a
certain topic that UB is involved in.
Solution Seekers need help from UB to resolve an
issue or are in need of advice. They are either in the
process of finding an answer or have recently found an
answer, as well as those who provide those answers.
Keep in mind that the mental models we’ve discussed are
not mutually exclusive. A visitor might transcend more than one
category. Also, there may be other categories of visitors to your
site that fit a different profile. The point is that your content
strategy – that is, the content and messages you
provide, and how you organize it – should be based on an
understanding of the concerns and needs of the people who visit
In addition to using the mental models to help define your
audience’s needs, it is important to listen to your
front-line employees. Your receptionists, recruiters,
administrative assistants, customer-service specialists and
other front-line employees deal with your target audiences
every day. They know the information your users are looking for,
the questions they are asking and the advice they are seeking.