There are many ways to identify the needs of users, such as usability testing, interviewing users, discussions with business stakeholders, and conducting surveys. However one technique that has grown in popularity and acceptance is the use of personas: the development of archetypal users to direct the vision and design of a web solution.

Personas identify the user motivations, expectations and goals responsible for driving online behaviour, and bring users to life by giving them names, personalities and often a photo.

Although personas are fictitious, they are based on knowledge of real users. Some form of user research is conducted before they are written to ensure they represent end users rather than the opinion of the person writing the personas.

“Bob is 52 years old and works as a mechanic with an organisation offering road service to customers when their car breaks down. He has worked in the job for the past 12 years and knows it well. Many of the younger mechanics ask Bob for advice when they meet up in the depot as he always knows the answer to tricky mechanical problems. Bob likes sharing his knowledge with the younger guys, as it makes him feel a valued part of the team.

Bob works rolling day and night shifts and spends his shifts attending breakdowns and lockouts (when customers lock their keys in the car). About 20% of the jobs he attends are complex and he occasionally needs to refer to his standard issue manuals. Bob tries to avoid using the manuals in front of customers as he thinks it gives the impression he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Bob has seen many changes over the years with the company and has tried his best to move with the times. However he found it a bit daunting when a new computer was installed in his van several years ago, and now he has heard rumours that the computer is going to be upgraded to one with a bigger screen that’s meant to be faster and better.

Bob’s been told that he will be able to access the intranet on the new computer. He has heard about the intranet and saw once in an early version on his manager’s computer. He wonders if he will be able to find out want’s going on in the company more easily, especially as customers’ seem to know more about the latest company news than he does when he turns up at a job. This can be embarrassing and has been a source of frustration for Bob throughout his time with the company.

Bob wonders if he will be able to cope with the new computer system. He doesn’t mind asking his grandchildren for help when he wants to send an email to his brother overseas, but asking the guys at work for help is another story.” (Calabria, 2004)

Personas enable intranet and website teams to stand in their users’ shoes. They focus the design effort on supporting user goals, rather than being driven by the ideas of team members or senior executives.

“The benefits are summarized as:

  • Help team members share a specific, consistent understanding of various audience groups. Data about the groups can be put in a proper context and can be understood and remembered in coherent stories.
  • Proposed solutions can be guided by how well they meet the needs of individual user personas. Features can be prioritized based on how well they address the needs of one or more personas.
  • Provide a human “face” so as to create empathy for the persons represented by the demographics.” (UXLADY, 2013)

Reference:

UXLADY (2013) Introduction to User Personas. Available at: http://www.ux-lady.com/introduction-to-user-personas/ %5BAccessed: 18 October 2015]

SAURO, J. (2012) 7 Core Ideas About Personas And The User Experience. Available at:http://www.measuringu.com/blog/personas-ux.php %5BAccessed: 18 October 2015]

CALABRIA, T. (2004) An introduction to personas and how to create them. Available at:http://www.steptwo.com.au/papers/kmc_personas/ %5BAccessed: 18 October 2015]

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