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Re: [agile-usability] Personas

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  • William Pietri
    Hi, Brian. I m curious about the context for your statement below: ... Do you have a product manager or other person acting as the representative of the
    Message 1 of 23 , Jul 25 12:42 PM
      Hi, Brian. I'm curious about the context for your statement below:

      Brian Weiss wrote:
      > In theory, the Agile team is supposed to expand beyond the typical
      > role based practices [...] In practice, as far as I've seen, neither
      > is true. [...] And getting a Java guy to consider usability when
      > making a servlet just doesn't happen much either.

      Do you have a product manager or other person acting as the
      representative of the business and the end users in the same room as the
      Java guy? And by "in the same room" I mean close enough that one can
      easily get the other's attention without getting up?

      Do they have a daily stand-up meeting together? Does the engineer show
      progress at least daily? Are their iterations no more than two weeks
      long, and hopefully less?

      Knowledge and habits are both contagious. But there has to be a path for
      transmission. From what I've seen, this requires shared goals and
      frequent interaction. I think places that graft agile practices onto
      existing organizational structures can easily miss out on the results
      that I see when you start fresh.

      William
    • Elizabeth Whitworth
      ... project where as (even with marketing people) personas are nice to haves . Aren t personas a form of user feedback? Personas are based on real world
      Message 2 of 23 , Jul 25 12:52 PM
        >IMO, user testing and feedback are critical to the success of a
        project where as (even with marketing people) personas are "nice to haves".
        Aren't personas a form of user feedback? Personas are based on real world people with real world problems, and their experiences, objectives, and opinions are the feedback that you are giving to developers.

        >In the case of this thread, I don't believe the people I work with
        would be able to code a stored procedure better knowing that the input came >from a woman who has 1 year of college and enjoys cooking.
        From what I have found online, most of the persona examples out there are made for e-commerce or lifestyle products that really do need that kind of "1 year of college and enjoys cooking" information. Those personas, to me, are more helpful for designers/product managers than for developers. If you application is more practical (less 'designy'?)  and you are writing for a developer audience, then  I would strongly suggest altering the persona formula a little e.g. leave out a lot (but not all) of the personal details, and include instead more details about daily workflow, common problems, tech usage and set-up, and working context.

        I also think that it doesn't make much sense to present personas to development without some associated usage scenarios that go into more detail about specific user workflow and associated needs . This brings the personas a lot closer to the software that the developers are/will be working on. If there is a problem of optimization in the users workflow, then you can show it to the developers using usage scenarios, and in my experience at least some of them will happily play with the problem, and probably come up with some good ideas too.

        I relatively new with practical application of personas, but I have got a lot of positive feedback from developers who I had written off as head-in-the-sand coder types.

         - liz



        On 7/25/07, Brian Weiss <briandweiss@...> wrote:

        Yes, several times and that has been highly successful for marketing myself internally and ensuring good usability practices are enforced as well as help me drive UCD home. I continue to make videos or capture sessions some other way to show the teams. Help me with the leap to persona creation though. To me, they are distinct deliverables.
         
        IMO, user testing and feedback are critical to the success of a project where as (even with marketing people) personas are "nice to haves".
         
        In the case of this thread, I don't believe the people I work with would be able to code a stored procedure better knowing that the input came from a woman who has 1 year of college and enjoys cooking. And making them sit in a meeting discussing this would not further my cause with them and might even undermine it as it would waste their time with what they will perceive as "fluff".
         
        That meeting might help elsewhere and for other teams perhaps and if you have the bandwidth I say go for it and test it out. Look at it like this is user testing the dev staff.
         
        -Brian


        "Desilets, Alain" <alain.desilets@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca> wrote:
         >  I'd like to clarify that I didn't mean personas have no value but in the select case where they are being used for  
        >  development staff empathy - I personally would spend my time elsewhere. Benefit vs. resource consumption. A   
        > good set of wireframes set in context for the group ( i.e. talking about the end user thru the flow) has as much impact  
        >  to the developers as would talking to personas.  
         
        Have you tried showing them a videotape of an end user struggling to carry out a task using this product or a previous product built by the same team?
         
        Alain


        Ready for the edge of your seat? Check out tonight's top picks on Yahoo! TV.


      • Ron Vutpakdi
        ... details, ... problems, tech ... more detail ... I agree completely. I like personas and having them can be very helpful, but only if they provide useful
        Message 3 of 23 , Jul 26 5:50 AM
          --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Elizabeth Whitworth"
          <elizabethwhitworth@...> wrote:
          >
          > [...] and you are writing for a
          > developer audience, then I would strongly suggest altering the persona
          > formula a little e.g. leave out a lot (but not all) of the personal
          details,
          > and include instead more details about daily workflow, common
          problems, tech
          > usage and set-up, and working context.
          >
          > I also think that it doesn't make much sense to present personas to
          > development without some associated usage scenarios that go into
          more detail
          > about specific user workflow and associated needs .

          I agree completely. I like personas and having them can be very
          helpful, but only if they provide useful information and context. If
          the personas are just a "think of the user" flag full of fluff without
          providing information that the developer sees as useful, they are
          likely to be ignored.

          We're currently trying to bring back personas after a rather
          disastrous earlier attempt. The earlier attempt was disastrous
          because personas and storyboards were oversold and executed poorly.
          As a result, when the personas and storyboards under-delivered, they
          were discredited as a useful tool.

          What I'm hoping that we'll do this time is develop them only as far as
          they are useful tools with helpful information and firmly ground them
          in practical usage scenarios. I'm hoping that we also under-promise
          them a bit as just a tool and not a general panacea. That way, we
          have a good chance of over-delivering.

          Ron
        • Mark Schraad
          I think it is important to develop the persona fully to the detail level. However, that being said, there is an advantage to leaving out those details when
          Message 4 of 23 , Jul 26 6:00 AM
            I think it is important to develop the persona fully to the detail level. However, that being said, there is an advantage to leaving out those details when presenting them as targets to specific groups. That they are archetypes for a group of users with either common tasks, goals or desired product attributes can be very powerful. If your audience has a tendency to 'design for self', very specific personae can easily dismissed.

            Mark


            On Thursday, July 26, 2007, at 08:50AM, "Ron Vutpakdi" <vutpakdi@...> wrote:
            >--- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Elizabeth Whitworth"
            ><elizabethwhitworth@...> wrote:
            >>
            >> [...] and you are writing for a
            >> developer audience, then I would strongly suggest altering the persona
            >> formula a little e.g. leave out a lot (but not all) of the personal
            >details,
            >> and include instead more details about daily workflow, common
            >problems, tech
            >> usage and set-up, and working context.
            >>
            >> I also think that it doesn't make much sense to present personas to
            >> development without some associated usage scenarios that go into
            >more detail
            >> about specific user workflow and associated needs .
            >
            >I agree completely. I like personas and having them can be very
            >helpful, but only if they provide useful information and context. If
            >the personas are just a "think of the user" flag full of fluff without
            >providing information that the developer sees as useful, they are
            >likely to be ignored.
            >
            >We're currently trying to bring back personas after a rather
            >disastrous earlier attempt. The earlier attempt was disastrous
            >because personas and storyboards were oversold and executed poorly.
            >As a result, when the personas and storyboards under-delivered, they
            >were discredited as a useful tool.
            >
            >What I'm hoping that we'll do this time is develop them only as far as
            >they are useful tools with helpful information and firmly ground them
            >in practical usage scenarios. I'm hoping that we also under-promise
            >them a bit as just a tool and not a general panacea. That way, we
            >have a good chance of over-delivering.
            >
            >Ron
            >
            >
          • shramlet
            If one has the luxury (or mind-numbing task, depending on your perspective) of having a UCD / UXD / UED specify all the text for all the error messages, as
            Message 5 of 23 , Jul 26 11:44 AM
              If one has the luxury (or mind-numbing task, depending on your
              perspective) of having a UCD / UXD / UED specify all the text for all
              the error messages, as well as every other intricate detail of the
              user experience, then personas would be less valuable to the
              developers since they can code to your strict specifications.

              If the developer is empowered (by role or resource restrictions,
              perhaps) to make design choices, then a persona might be a good time
              investment to help inform the developer's design choices.

              Susan Ramlet
              User-Centered Designer
              Medtronic



              --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Brian Weiss <briandweiss@...>
              wrote:
              >
              > So far, the developers I've worked with don't seem to care much
              about gaining empathy for the end-user. Not to say I haven't tried. To
              some degree they care, but they push it off (half-jokingly) that it's
              my "job to care". I tend to agree with them somewhat as giving them
              freedom to make end-user decisions hasn't abated obvious no-nos.
              >
              > To them "Commit error 412. Servlet ODBC cannot find hex 1000:X90d"
              is a perfectly good end-user error. Another good one is they see no
              problem in having pop-up dialogs that stop the user dead in a flow to
              confirm the submission was good. (Like the app is congratulating the
              user for figuring out how to hit the submit button). They debug code
              all day...dialogs are second nature to them.
              >
              > Anyway, personas can take up alot of time to develop for
              complicated sites or apps. Being the only UE guy here, I'd rather use
              my time elsewhere.
              >
              > -Brian
              >
            • Tim Wright
              Just to add something else to the discussion of Personas, I ve started using them in a different way. My company has decided to redesign it s website for
              Message 6 of 23 , Jul 26 6:51 PM
                Just to add something else to the discussion of Personas, I've started using them in a different way. My company has decided to redesign it's website for accredited users (we give them training then they can sell our product). To get requirements, I've got all our support people (client service managers, accreditation team, consultants, ...) writing the personas and scenarios themselves.

                It didn't take long to teach the basic concepts (about a 2 hour focused meeting with four key personal), and the results I've been getting have been excellent and interesting! Of course, it is a mixed bag - some people can't get past the "what the site does now" versus "what our users want it do to," but a little feedback is keeping them on the right track.

                Of course, this is still early stages in the project, but I feel it's been an excellent requirements gathering exercise that has also got huge buy-in across the business for the project. The next stage is a card-sort (it's an information heavy website). I'm going to try to get people inside the business to do that as well - with some guidance of course.

                This does make me wonder: has anyone else tried to push some of the requirements gathering activities out into the business - where the people are neither technical nor designers. From my perspective, card-sorts and personas are obvious cantidates because they don't require much explanation.

                (I should also add that my place of work is unusual: we have a corporate culture where people are expected to focus on: achieving their goals, helping out other people, being friendly, and being themselves. This means that asking others to perform an activity where they get to be creative is always answered with gusto!)

                Tim

                On 7/27/07, shramlet <shramlet@...> wrote:

                If one has the luxury (or mind-numbing task, depending on your
                perspective) of having a UCD / UXD / UED specify all the text for all
                the error messages, as well as every other intricate detail of the
                user experience, then personas would be less valuable to the
                developers since they can code to your strict specifications.

                If the developer is empowered (by role or resource restrictions,
                perhaps) to make design choices, then a persona might be a good time
                investment to help inform the developer's design choices.

                Susan Ramlet
                User-Centered Designer
                Medtronic

                --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, Brian Weiss <briandweiss@...>
                wrote:
                >
                > So far, the developers I've worked with don't seem to care much
                about gaining empathy for the end-user. Not to say I haven't tried. To
                some degree they care, but they push it off (half-jokingly) that it's
                my "job to care". I tend to agree with them somewhat as giving them
                freedom to make end-user decisions hasn't abated obvious no-nos.
                >
                > To them "Commit error 412. Servlet ODBC cannot find hex 1000:X90d"
                is a perfectly good end-user error. Another good one is they see no
                problem in having pop-up dialogs that stop the user dead in a flow to
                confirm the submission was good. (Like the app is congratulating the
                user for figuring out how to hit the submit button). They debug code
                all day...dialogs are second nature to them.
                >
                > Anyway, personas can take up alot of time to develop for
                complicated sites or apps. Being the only UE guy here, I'd rather use
                my time elsewhere.
                >
                > -Brian
                >




                --
                Kei te kōrero tiki au. Kei te kōrero tiki koe. Ka kōrero tiki tāua. Kōrero ai tiki tāua.
              • Jeff Patton
                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
                Message 7 of 23 , Jul 27 12:08 PM
                  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,

                  -Jeff
                • Daniel Szuc
                  A good set of wire frames set in context for the group (i.e. talking about the end user thru the flow) has as much impact to the developers as would talking
                  Message 8 of 23 , Jul 31 12:51 AM
                    "A good set of wire frames set in context for the group (i.e. talking about the end user thru the flow) has as much impact to the developers as would talking to personas."
                     
                    Suggest this is the right opportunity to develop Personas. So take a small % of the walkthrough time to brainstorm what we know about our users.
                     
                    See: http://www.apogeehk.com/articles/Personas_Focusing_on_getting_the_design_right_Part1.html and using a "walkthrough" to direct around User Goals coming from the personas crafted - http://www.uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000199.php
                     
                    rgds,
                    Dan

                    Daniel Szuc
                    Principal Usability Consultant
                    Apogee Usability Asia Ltd
                    www.apogeehk.com
                    'Usability in Asia'

                    The Usability Kit -
                    http://www.theusabilitykit.com



                    From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Brian Weiss
                    Sent: Wednesday, 25 July 2007 11:21 PM
                    To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: Re: [agile-usability] Personas

                    Sort of. We have a modified RUP/Agile process where use cases are still king but there are plenty of opportunities for face-to-face for the group and the artifacts developed are less than a full blown RUP.
                     
                    RUP, Agile, Waterfall, XP... done it all and developers still have *their context of what is a good end-user experience to contend with. Empathy won't get them to be able drop that context to look thru the user's eyes. I've yet to see one case where a DBA or a Java person can effectively drive a front-end decision because he/she understands the context or persona using the app. And besides, they just don't care that much nor should they regardless of methodology.
                     
                    I'd like to clarify that I didn't mean personas have no value but in the select case where they are being used for development staff empathy - I personally would spend my time elsewhere. Benefit vs. resource consumption. A good set of wireframes set in context for the group (i.e. talking about the end user thru the flow) has as much impact to the developers as would talking to personas.
                     
                    As for buy in/defense from a marketing stakeholder I've used them with moderate success. Maybe they aren't my forte, but they seem great in theory...in practice, less so.
                     
                    If I had a team, maybe there would be the opportunity for me to work them in more.
                     
                    Just my $.02
                    -Brian


                    Adrian Howard <adrianh@quietstars. com> wrote:

                    On 25 Jul 2007, at 15:14, Brian Weiss wrote:

                    > So far, the developers I've worked with don't seem to care much
                    > about gaining empathy for the end-user. Not to say I haven't tried.
                    > To some degree they care, but they push it off (half-jokingly) that
                    > it's my "job to care". I tend to agree with them somewhat as giving
                    > them freedom to make end-user decisions hasn't abated obvious no-nos.
                    [snip]

                    Is this on an agile team?

                    Adrian


                    Pinpoint customers who are looking for what you sell.

                  • Brian Weiss
                    To echo the thread starter: Thanks for all the responses - I m the only usability person in a company of 10,000+ who custom builds every system and it s nice
                    Message 9 of 23 , Jul 31 1:40 PM
                      To echo the thread starter: Thanks for all the responses - I'm the only usability person in a company of 10,000+ who custom builds every system and it's nice to read these threads. As I mentioned in an earlier email, we are not a true Agile shop and in fact are alot closer to a lightweight RUP shop. This listserv was closest to any speaking to usability concepts and our software development cycle out there and that's why I joined. I don't usually jump in because of that fact but wanted to add to this conversation and didn't feel the Agile process was necessarily germain. Although I've yet to see a perfect implementation of any theoretical development process...
                       
                      To answer several emails: I get it. I understand how to present to teams - been doing it for 10+ years. I know what personas are and how to use them.
                       
                      Again though, in the case originally proposed, I've yet to see a Java coder have any impact on a front end because he understands a persona using the interface. Nor has a persona helped him or her code a servlet better. The inputs are the same regardless of the who.
                      In a development meeting with developers I would not present personas. With marketing people and other business stakeholders, sure. They can bring a nice rounded context to a wireframe.
                       
                      To devs I may speak of UMLish actors, but only in the context of how they interact with the system on a data level as that is all they care about.

                      Thanks again for the responses,
                      -Brian
                       
                       


                      Daniel Szuc <dszuc@...> wrote:
                      "A good set of wire frames set in context for the group (i.e. talking about the end user thru the flow) has as much impact to the developers as would talking to personas."
                       
                      Suggest this is the right opportunity to develop Personas. So take a small % of the walkthrough time to brainstorm what we know about our users.
                       
                       
                      rgds,
                      Dan
                      Daniel Szuc
                      Principal Usability Consultant
                      Apogee Usability Asia Ltd
                      www.apogeehk. com
                      'Usability in Asia'

                      The Usability Kit -
                      http://www.theusabi litykit.com


                      From: agile-usability@ yahoogroups. com [mailto:agile- usability@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of Brian Weiss
                      Sent: Wednesday, 25 July 2007 11:21 PM
                      To: agile-usability@ yahoogroups. com
                      Subject: Re: [agile-usability] Personas

                      Sort of. We have a modified RUP/Agile process where use cases are still king but there are plenty of opportunities for face-to-face for the group and the artifacts developed are less than a full blown RUP.
                       
                      RUP, Agile, Waterfall, XP... done it all and developers still have *their context of what is a good end-user experience to contend with. Empathy won't get them to be able drop that context to look thru the user's eyes. I've yet to see one case where a DBA or a Java person can effectively drive a front-end decision because he/she understands the context or persona using the app. And besides, they just don't care that much nor should they regardless of methodology.
                       
                      I'd like to clarify that I didn't mean personas have no value but in the select case where they are being used for development staff empathy - I personally would spend my time elsewhere. Benefit vs. resource consumption. A good set of wireframes set in context for the group (i.e. talking about the end user thru the flow) has as much impact to the developers as would talking to personas.
                       
                      As for buy in/defense from a marketing stakeholder I've used them with moderate success. Maybe they aren't my forte, but they seem great in theory...in practice, less so.
                       
                      If I had a team, maybe there would be the opportunity for me to work them in more.
                       
                      Just my $.02
                      -Brian


                      Adrian Howard <adrianh@quietstars. com> wrote:

                      On 25 Jul 2007, at 15:14, Brian Weiss wrote:

                      > So far, the developers I've worked with don't seem to care much
                      > about gaining empathy for the end-user. Not to say I haven't tried.
                      > To some degree they care, but they push it off (half-jokingly) that
                      > it's my "job to care". I tend to agree with them somewhat as giving
                      > them freedom to make end-user decisions hasn't abated obvious no-nos.
                      [snip]

                      Is this on an agile team?

                      Adrian


                      Pinpoint customers who are looking for what you sell.


                      Take the Internet to Go: Yahoo!Go puts the Internet in your pocket: mail, news, photos & more.

                    • jawsadieemail
                      Everyone - thanks for all the responses. Great discussion. I just wanted to follow up and (for what it s worth) let everyone know that my team has decided not
                      Message 10 of 23 , Aug 1, 2007
                        Everyone - thanks for all the responses. Great discussion. I just
                        wanted to follow up and (for what it's worth) let everyone know that
                        my team has decided not to pursue the introduction of personas at this
                        point. We agreed with many on this list who felt the impact was low
                        relative to the time investment. We're doing other things to bring
                        focus to our users - such as usability test briefings and group design
                        sessions where our design leads mentor our development staff and of
                        course advocate for our user base.

                        That said, I do think there is value with personas. Obviously many of
                        you use them with good success, and they've been helpful for me in the
                        past as well. Two main things drove our decision to not pursue them:
                        1)The context of Agile - time/resources are scarce & 2)It seems the
                        archetype personas are easiest to create but better for marketing and
                        other stakeholders. More detailed personas that focus on detailed
                        tasks & come accompanied with use cases or scenarios are better for
                        developers (our audience in this case) but take longer to use.

                        Thanks all,
                        Jeff
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