Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

Misaligned Mental Models

My website recently went down. I only found out as I posted a new blog post and then could not access it to check it was ok. Normally when that happens it means I have made an error in my code, but this time it was not my fault.

When I went to my hosting provider I found that my SSL Certificate had expired a couple of days earlier, but they had not told me.

This seemed so odd to me - normally I get emails from them telling me when domains etc are going to expire, so why not for this?

Apparently I had not ticked the box for it to auto renew. Not ticking the box apparently means that I do not want it to renew and so do not want to be told when it expires.

This makes no sense to me. I had not ticked the box for auto renew as this is an expensive thing and I wanted to make sure the price had not gone up before renewing again this year. I did not want it to just renew without telling me.

This just shows how not understanding your customers mental model can cause problems.

Whoever wrote the rules on this process probably understands exactly what will happen if I set it to auto renew. They know that emails will go out and I will be warned how much and when etc before it happens, but to me auto renew just means something will happen without me having to do anything and money will leave my account, again without me having to do anything. Just like my monthly hosting bills or your Amazon Prime account.

Whether I want it to renew or not, what is the harm in a simple email warning me that something is about to expire? They have irritated me much more by not telling me - my website, and another that I look after, were down for nearly a week, than if I had got an email confirming something that I expected.

Understanding your customers mental model is so important and can only really be understood by speaking to your customers. It is amazing what a bit of research can reveal.

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