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RE: [agile-usability] alternatives to user roles or personas

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  • 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 1 of 4 , Nov 8, 2004
      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 2 of 4 , Nov 9, 2004
        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 3 of 4 , Nov 10, 2004
          > 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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