Abstract Researchers in the human-computer interaction field have advocated that interface designers use analytical models of the user (e.g. the GOMS model) to help them consider user needs during the design process. This paper surveys the literature on analytical models for interface designers, focusing initially on empirical studies of the validity of these models. This survey shows that analytical models can by used by interface designers in two ways: (1) as task analytic tools that help in generating preliminary design ideas, and (2) as tools for evaluating preliminary designs by predicting user performance and satisfaction. Empirical studies have demonstrated that analytical models can be used in the task analysis phase of design; in these studies, models were successfully used to generate new designs for existing interfaces, with the new designs leading to improved user performance. Regarding the use of analytical models to evaluate interface designs, a number of empirical studies have shown that these models can help explain the factors affecting user performance in a precise, quantitative fashion. However, these explanations have only been given for existing interfaces. Advocates of analytical models have not yet demonstrated convincingly that models can generate accurate a priori predictions of user performance for a new interface. This kind of prediction is necessary before analytical models can be used effectively by interface designers. The final section of the paper focuses on the practical constraints affecting the use of analytical models in interface design organizations, such as organizational schedules, budgets and training requirements. In this section, suggestions are made concerning research needed before analytical models can be used in real-world design projects.