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RE: [agile-usability] Usability, personas, use cases

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  • Larry Constantine
    Personas and use cases serve very different functions if used as intended. Personas are an attempt to embody essential understanding about users while use
    Message 1 of 8 , Jul 7, 2005
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      Personas and use cases serve very different functions if used as intended.
      Personas are an attempt to embody essential understanding about users while
      use cases are one way of representing the nature of user tasks in
      interaction with a system. Yes, I know, some people tack elaborate scenarios
      onto personas and others squeeze user profiles into use cases, but that is
      another discussion.

      Not all use cases are arcana needing to be mastered through rote learning.
      Essential use cases (task cases) are simplified expressions in ordinary
      everyday language and the vocabulary of the subject matter. Many have found
      that they are effective for bridging the communication with users about the
      essence of their needs; no special training is needed for users to
      interpret, validate, and amend them.

      Both user role and task case models can not only be reviewed with users and
      customers but also developed in collaboration with them using workshop
      techniques such as those perfected by Jeff Patton or found in the Joint
      Essential Modeling approach. In neither case are users or customers being
      asked to understand or do the coding or anything like it.

      --Larry Constantine, IDSA
      Chief Scientist | Constantine & Lockwood, Ltd.

      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
      [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
      > aacockburn
      > Sent: Tuesday, 05 July 2005 12:18 PM
      > To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: [agile-usability] Usability, personas, use cases
      >
      > I received this interesting question about use cases, personas and
      > usability, which I think is relevant to this august body of
      > thinkers / doers. I stripped off the identifying details from the
      > email to leave the meat of the worries as discussion fodder.
      >
      > Anyone have some thoughts on this?
      >
      > =============
      > I have worked as a Designer in a team of technocratic Java Developers
      > who 'get' your (Alistair's) vision of use-cases, but are not able to
      > sell or articulate the idea to anyone else in the company other than
      > peers. For me, use-cases certainly don't seem to readily interface
      > with the prototypes and workflows/scenarios that I produce as work
      > products.
      >
      > I have looked into them and cannot see anything of any more value than
      > Cooper's personas. Whilst both are new 'languages', personas are most
      > useful in communicating to the project team what the users (your
      > actors) actually desire in terms of their goals, however getting
      > empathy from the large majority of developers is an added challenge
      > often with fruitless results.
      >
      > Use-cases do not seem to bridge any communication gaps as they are a
      > language in their own right that needs to be learnt by rote and being
      > textual in nature are uninteresting and wordy. In fact I've never once
      > seen an effective use-case because they're so difficult to get 'right'
      > and even harder to communicate value. Also, the mere thought of asking
      > one of my customers to attempt to understand one is tantamount to
      > asking them to start coding for me. I can't see it and need
      > enlightenment!
      >
      > Apologies for being frank. I also long for someone to explain the
      > interface between agile programming and 'usability' *.
      >
      > Kind regards
      >
      > * Usability whilst useful in most contexts is just ' good design ' and
      > therefore a misnomer. When was anything 'well designed' unusable?
      > =======================================
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
    • katie pula
      That s the best thing I ve read/heard in awhile. Katie Pula Interaction Architect, Blast Radius Larry Constantine wrote: Personas and
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 7, 2005
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        That's the best thing I've read/heard in awhile.
         
        Katie Pula
        Interaction Architect, Blast Radius


        Larry Constantine <lconstantine@...> wrote:
        Personas and use cases serve very different functions if used as intended.
        Personas are an attempt to embody essential understanding about users while
        use cases are one way of representing the nature of user tasks in
        interaction with a system. Yes, I know, some people tack elaborate scenarios
        onto personas and others squeeze user profiles into use cases, but that is
        another discussion.

        Not all use cases are arcana needing to be mastered through rote learning.
        Essential use cases (task cases) are simplified expressions in ordinary
        everyday language and the vocabulary of the subject matter. Many have found
        that they are effective for bridging the communication with users about the
        essence of their needs; no special training is needed for users to
        interpret, validate, and amend them.

        Both user role and task case models can not only be reviewed with users and
        customers but also developed in collaboration with them using workshop
        techniques such as those perfected by Jeff Patton or found in the Joint
        Essential Modeling approach. In neither case are users or customers being
        asked to understand or do the coding or anything like it. 

        --Larry Constantine, IDSA
          Chief Scientist | Constantine & Lockwood, Ltd.

        > -----Original Message-----
        > From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
        [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
        > aacockburn
        > Sent: Tuesday, 05 July 2005 12:18 PM
        > To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
        > Subject: [agile-usability] Usability, personas, use cases
        >
        > I received this interesting question about use cases, personas and
        > usability, which I think is relevant to this august body of
        > thinkers / doers. I stripped off the identifying details from the
        > email to leave the meat of the worries as discussion fodder.
        >
        > Anyone have some thoughts on this?
        >
        > =============
        > I have worked as a Designer in a team of technocratic Java Developers
        > who 'get' your (Alistair's) vision of use-cases, but are not able to
        > sell or articulate the idea to anyone else in the company other than
        > peers. For me, use-cases certainly don't seem to readily interface
        > with the prototypes and workflows/scenarios that I produce as work
        > products.
        >
        > I have looked into them and cannot see anything of any more value than
        > Cooper's personas. Whilst both are new 'languages', personas are most
        > useful in communicating to the project team what the users (your
        > actors) actually desire in terms of their goals, however getting
        > empathy from the large majority of developers is an added challenge
        > often with fruitless results.
        >
        > Use-cases do not seem to bridge any communication gaps as they are a
        > language in their own right that needs to be learnt by rote and being
        > textual in nature are uninteresting and wordy. In fact I've never once
        > seen an effective use-case because they're so difficult to get 'right'
        > and even harder to communicate value. Also, the mere thought of asking
        > one of my customers to attempt to understand one is tantamount to
        > asking them to start coding for me. I can't see it and need
        > enlightenment!
        >
        > Apologies for being frank. I also long for someone to explain the
        > interface between agile programming and 'usability' *.
        >
        > Kind regards
        >
        > * Usability whilst useful in most contexts is just ' good design ' and
        > therefore a misnomer. When was anything 'well designed' unusable?
        > =======================================
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >




        Sell on Yahoo! Auctions - No fees. Bid on great items.
      • William Pietri
        ... Sorry if I was unclear. When I said that I felt formal methods should be used when you can t get informal, intuitive approaches to work, I didn t mean that
        Message 3 of 8 , Jul 12, 2005
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          On Thu, 2005-07-07 at 13:58 -0500, Larry Constantine wrote:
          > Musical analogies can carry us only so far, however. In the real world
          > where I work the need to ensure traceability for the FDA or guaranteed
          > performance for the owners of the electrical grid mitigate against
          > treating anything with casual informality.

          Sorry if I was unclear. When I said that I felt formal methods should be
          used when you can't get informal, intuitive approaches to work, I didn't
          mean that one should treat work casually.

          For example, writers I know are very serious about their craft. But I
          don't know any professional writer who follows a formal method to
          achieve good prose. If they need a powerful closing sentence, they write
          one, and may be completely unable to explain how they did it.

          If one doesn't have the knack for writing, then the methods in
          composition textbooks are a good place to start. Or if an organization
          wants to write something that's beyond the scope of what one writer or a
          small team can achieve, then coming up with a formal, process-driven
          approach can have good results.

          What I was trying to highlight, though, is that neither of those gets
          you the same value per effort of one talented, experienced writer fully
          engaged in the task itself. Thus, I always look first for ways to fit
          work within that envelope.

          > Use cases cannot be allowed to wither away, as they are part of the
          > engineering and legal audit trail that connects what is delivered to
          > how it was conceived. Which is another form of communication function
          > that such models can fulfill.

          Certainly there are environments where that sort of paperwork is the
          best way to fulfill a goal, and I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. I
          was really only addressing the situation of Alistair's correspondent,
          who didn't mention the need for an audit trail.

          William

          --
          William Pietri <william@...>
        • Kevin Doyle
          ... I m not an agile guru, but I am a design and usability consultant - so, here s my take on it, however wrong it may be. ;) Personas are really more of a
          Message 4 of 8 , Jul 15, 2005
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            > Whilst both are new 'languages', personas are most
            > useful in communicating to the project team what the users (your
            > actors) actually desire in terms of their goals, however getting
            > empathy from the large majority of developers is an added challenge
            > often with fruitless results.

            I'm not an agile guru, but I am a design and usability consultant -
            so, here's my take on it, however wrong it may be. ;) Personas are
            really more of a tool for determining a product's requirements, and
            aren't really used by developers. Personas give a face and depth to
            the possible user that's impossible to create without having a product
            or prototype you can throw off a group of use-testers. Once you're at
            the testing stage of the game, personas really help in determining
            your tester base. They can even be a help to developers -- developers
            sometimes have a hard time seeing what they're making through the eyes
            of the user and personas can help with this - however, that implies
            that the developer wants to know more about the user.

            > Use-cases do not seem to bridge any communication gaps as they are a
            > language in their own right that needs to be learnt by rote and being
            > textual in nature are uninteresting and wordy. In fact I've never once
            > seen an effective use-case because they're so difficult to get 'right'
            > and even harder to communicate value. Also, the mere thought of asking
            > one of my customers to attempt to understand one is tantamount to
            > asking them to start coding for me. I can't see it and need
            > enlightenment!

            Use cases aren't one of my strengths, but they're HUGELY important if
            you want to determine a product's requirements -- especially if you're
            developing a completely new application or site. Yes, use cases have
            their own vocabulary you need to have translated if you're trying to
            explain them to a group of stakeholders or team members who have never
            used them. If you're someone responsible for presenting a series of
            use-cases to a group of stakeholders or team members, you are going to
            have to learn how to translate those use cases to your team and to the
            stakeholders. Use cases can reduce the amount of guesswork and can be
            a big help on determining each step of a complicated process. I can't
            imagine ~not~ using them -- I'm just not very good at creating them.
            ;)

            > * Usability whilst useful in most contexts is just ' good design ' and
            > therefore a misnomer. When was anything 'well designed' unusable?


            Have you ever visited a web page that looked great visually, but had a
            hard time trying to figure out where the link to something important
            was? As you rolled your mouse over the page, perhaps lots of neat
            things happened - cool mouseover behaviors or other types of neat
            animations are triggered, but you still couldn't find that link you
            were looking for? Sure, the site looks AWESOME, but it's so cutting
            edge that the novice user can't even figure the page out. (Flash sites
            are SOOO guilty of this.)

            When something is considered "well designed" in my book, it has to be
            intuitive ~and~ visually appealing. The term "design" is a strange one
            in site and application development. Design, for me, has two parts -
            visual design and interface design; the two are very different. Sure,
            both require knowledge of how to layout a page, but interface design
            is where the "usability" happens. Perhaps visualize interface design
            as the skeleton and visual design as the skin. (The muscle could
            perhaps be called the backend and/or "programming".) Interface design
            includes detailing each part of the site -- menu placement, page
            behavior (mouseover or onClick), button vs. link usage and placement,
            radio button vs. checkbox vs. alt/shift menu selection, content
            placement, etc., etc. Visual design includes stylesheet creation,
            color guide creation and usage, branding, typography, etc., etc...
            Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "'Form follows function' - that has
            been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a
            spiritual union." I view "form" as the visual design and "function" as
            the interaction design.

            Okay. Babbling is over... Feel free to flame, correct, slap, or comment.

            Kevin Doyle
            Senior Consultant, CC Pace, Inc.
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