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3600Re: Personas

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  • Jeff Patton
    Jul 27, 2007
      I've enjoyed this thread!

      I wanted to tie a few things together and add a couple minor points.

      Alain pointed out that personas don't have to take a long time to
      create, and I agree. The quick one based on what people in your
      organization commonly understand about your users allow everyone to
      get on the same page. These are assumption based personas as
      described by Pruitt and Adlin. And, again, even a persona that lacks
      the rigor a Cooperist would put into it is better than no design target.

      Elizebeth and others brought up user scenarios. I'd second that - the
      persona put into action reaching a goal using the product makes the
      communication that much more meaningful. Try Tim's approach and have
      your stakeholders or developers write scenarios - after supplying them
      with a good example or two.

      William and Susan talked a bit about culture. I've found that
      developers care about users when doing so is part of the company's
      culture. If it is, personas help. If it's not, personas can still
      help - but, you need to know in the latter situation you're trying to
      /change/ company culture, not merely support it. Susan in particular
      talked about developers being empowered to make design decisions. In
      agile contexts especially, they should be. I find it more efficient
      if I don't have to think of or describe (in a user story or whatever)
      every nit-picky detail about the software. It's cool when developers
      who understand and are concerned about users can make decisions on
      their own - then vet those decisions later of course.

      Finally, after all that, the point I wanted to make was this: Someone
      I worked with asked me what the made a persona good. "Relevance" I
      said. By that I mean, given a persona with these characteristics, how
      does it change or affect the design of the software? Look for some
      clear answers that demonstrate why a characteristic of the users, as
      described in the persona, is relevant to the feature choices and
      design of the product.

      For example: I was recently working with some folks writing software
      to support research scientists. These scientists, although extremely
      sharp as scientists, had computer skills that varied wildly. And, the
      research tool we were building was something they'd use likely only
      once a month, but for a few hours at a time.

      Knowing all this allowed us to to decide that the although the users
      were sophisticated technically, the software had to be pretty easy to
      use. Furthermore, since they used it so infrequently, usage needed to
      be obvious since they were relearning it every time. Finally, since
      they used it for a couple hours when this /did/ sit down to use it,
      usage needed to be efficient. We could draw dotted lines between
      specific product features and these concerns that came from profiling
      our target users.

      That's what I mean by making the persona relevant.

      Thanks for all your posts,

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