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alternatives to user roles or personas

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  • Jeff Patton
    Does anyone have any pointers to models that can function as alternatives to a user role (C&L U-CD style) or a persona (Cooper style)? For the work I m doing
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 8, 2004
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      Does anyone have any pointers to models that can function as
      alternatives to a user role (C&L U-CD style) or a persona (Cooper
      style)?

      For the work I'm doing today, we need some sort of simple model to
      contain the user, their goals, and the context of use. We don't have
      enough data to produce what I believe to be legitimate personas.
      I've traditionally used user roles as described by Constantine &
      Lockwood. I see them as combining some user context with a more
      specific user goal with respect to the system - but they're sort of
      abstract things and new people take a while to get them - not as
      concrete and approachable as personas are. Right now we're
      considering combining these techniques - using a user role, but
      describing some of the contextual information around that role with
      prose descriptions that might include a scenario or two similar to
      what you'd find on a persona. We'll be building these later this
      week, so we'll know more then on how combine-able these approaches
      are.

      But, as we're doing this, I wonder what others are using as an
      approach to encapsulate their people, goals, and usage context
      information? Are there named techniques documented that you can
      point me to? By that, I mean techniques you're using that work for
      you. [there's no shortage of books documenting some approach - I'm
      most interested in what's working.] Are their situation specific
      techniques that folks have invented that work well in their
      environment that they wouldn't mind describing?

      Finally - David Anderson, you mentioned doing some work on agile
      persona writing. Where's that gone? Do you have any specific
      approaches and lessons learned yet?

      Thanks in advance to anyone with ideas.

      -Jeff
    • Keith Nicholas
      Not sure if this is a documented technique but we also use be the user . We put developers / customer proxy on a customers site and they work alongside the
      Message 2 of 4 , Nov 8, 2004
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        Not sure if this is a documented technique but we also use "be the user".  We put developers / "customer proxy" on a customers site and they work alongside the users and also help perform the users tasks.  This seems to be the most effective way to give developers an understanding of both the users and the domain. So we have "be the user", "know the user", "know the domain". 
         
        However we don't really have an approach other than "go there and get stuck in".  Some of the stuff I'm finding interesting about usability practices is that it helps in asking the right questions, encourages you to ask more questions about various contexts and what people would do in various situations. 
         
        BTW, I don't think this means a developer can now create software without user involvement it just allows for a lot closer alignment of thinking.
         
        The result of doing this is better usability and far better "value" choices about what's the most important thing to do.
         
        I think going forward we will continue to explore "be the user", "know the user", "know the domain", and "involve the user".  The problem is when you can't "involve the user" all the time I'm hoping both "be the user" and "know the user" will provide enough of a mental model and understanding to progress forward until you can "involve the user" by getting feedback.
         
        Regards,
         
        Keith


        From: Jeff Patton [mailto:jpatton@...]
        Sent: Tuesday, 9 November 2004 10:42 a.m.
        To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [agile-usability] alternatives to user roles or personas


        Does anyone have any pointers to models that can function as
        alternatives to a user role (C&L U-CD style) or a persona (Cooper
        style)?

        For the work I'm doing today, we need some sort of simple model to
        contain the user, their goals, and the context of use.  We don't have
        enough data to produce what I believe to be legitimate personas. 
        I've traditionally used user roles as described by Constantine &
        Lockwood.  I see them as combining some user context with a more
        specific user goal with respect to the system - but they're sort of
        abstract things and new people take a while to get them - not as
        concrete and approachable as personas are.  Right now we're
        considering combining these techniques - using a user role, but
        describing some of the contextual information around that role with
        prose descriptions that might include a scenario or two similar to
        what you'd find on a persona.  We'll be building these later this
        week, so we'll know more then on how combine-able these approaches
        are. 

        But, as we're doing this, I wonder what others are using as an
        approach to encapsulate their people, goals, and usage context
        information?  Are there named techniques documented that you can
        point me to?  By that, I mean techniques you're using that work for
        you.  [there's no shortage of books documenting some approach - I'm
        most interested in what's working.]  Are their situation specific
        techniques that folks have invented that work well in their
        environment that they wouldn't mind describing?

        Finally - David Anderson, you mentioned doing some work on agile
        persona writing.  Where's that gone?  Do you have any specific
        approaches and lessons learned yet?

        Thanks in advance to anyone with ideas.

        -Jeff




      • Everyl Yankee
        Hi Jeff, We met at CASCON briefly before the User Scenario session. My project is at a similar stage and I ll keep you informed if/when we get progress as well
        Message 3 of 4 , Nov 9, 2004
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          Hi Jeff,
          We met at CASCON briefly before the User Scenario
          session.

          My project is at a similar stage and I'll keep you
          informed if/when we get progress as well as useful
          forms to use. This very week I'm meeting with the
          systems analyst and project manager to try to get
          personas/user scenarios into the next version of the
          software cycle. (When I came on scene last year, use
          cases were driving the product - this has proven to
          not work and finally the devs are realizing that
          context of use is necessary....)

          Looks like the team is receptive now to user context
          but we are probably going to have to hand-craft what
          we think works. After beating my head against the wall
          I've decided to provide models (profiles, goals
          statements as discussed in the IBM session) to the
          group and let THEM come up with something that works
          for them. They have so much documentation and tons of
          process artifacts around; possibly some of the info to
          be incorporated already exists so my role will be
          facilitator, it appears, with a firm hand on keeping
          things user-focus vs system of course.

          Unfortunately, I have no idea what the end item/s will
          be but I will keep you up to date if/when/as we
          incorporate this piece. I'll post to the group if we
          have any successes (or lessons learned).

          Regards,
          (Ms) Everyl Yankee
          (person from Michigan)


          --- Jeff Patton <jpatton@...> wrote:

          >
          > Does anyone have any pointers to models that can
          > function as
          > alternatives to a user role (C&L U-CD style) or a
          > persona (Cooper
          > style)?
          >
          > For the work I'm doing today, we need some sort of
          > simple model to
          > contain the user, their goals, and the context of
          > use. We don't have
          > enough data to produce what I believe to be
          > legitimate personas.
          > I've traditionally used user roles as described by
          > Constantine &
          > Lockwood. I see them as combining some user context
          > with a more
          > specific user goaIl with respect to the system - but
          > they're sort of
          > abstract things and new people take a while to get
          > them - not as
          > concrete and approachable as personas are. Right
          > now we're
          > considering combining these techniques - using a
          > user role, but
          > describing some of the contextual information around
          > that role with
          > prose descriptions that might include a scenario or
          > two similar to
          > what you'd find on a persona. We'll be building
          > these later this
          > week, so we'll know more then on how combine-able
          > these approaches
          > are.
          >
          > But, as we're doing this, I wonder what others are
          > using as an
          > approach to encapsulate their people, goals, and
          > usage context
          > information? Are there named techniques documented
          > that you can
          > point me to? By that, I mean techniques you're
          > using that work for
          > you. [there's no shortage of books documenting some
          > approach - I'm
          > most interested in what's working.] Are their
          > situation specific
          > techniques that folks have invented that work well
          > in their
          > environment that they wouldn't mind describing?
          >
          > Finally - David Anderson, you mentioned doing some
          > work on agile
          > persona writing. Where's that gone? Do you have
          > any specific
          > approaches and lessons learned yet?
          >
          > Thanks in advance to anyone with ideas.
          >
          > -Jeff
          >
          >
          >
          >




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        • Joshua Seiden
          ... function as ... persona (Cooper ... simple model to ... use. We don t have ... legitimate personas. Jeff, I sometimes use provisional personas in this
          Message 4 of 4 , Nov 10, 2004
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            > Does anyone have any pointers to models that can
            function as
            > alternatives to a user role (C&L U-CD style) or a
            persona (Cooper
            > style)?
            >
            > For the work I'm doing today, we need some sort of
            simple model to
            > contain the user, their goals, and the context of
            use. We don't have
            > enough data to produce what I believe to be
            legitimate personas.

            Jeff,

            I sometimes use "provisional personas" in this
            situation. This is a technique from Cooper. Provisional
            personas use the basic persona framework, but are based
            on a data mix that is leaner on fact and richer on
            assumption.

            The technique is nearly the same, but provisional
            personas are always illustrated with drawings or
            caricatures, rather than photos. They also tend to be
            expressed in bullet points, rather than delightful and
            evocative prose.

            It also takes some skill to use provisional
            personas--you need the experience to know when to trust
            your models and when to disregard their unreliable
            advice.

            The value is that you have a defined target. (Any
            target is better than no target.) The risk is that the
            target can be wrong.

            The other risk is that even provisional personas take
            on a life of their own; they tend to survive beyond
            their useful life. If you're not careful, you can find
            yourself making decisions based on your original flawed
            assumptions--even after better learning comes in. This
            is why it's a good idea to plan to kill off your
            provisional personas and start fresh when real research
            appears.

            Thanks,
            JS
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