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We use scenarios and personas because they help us – and our clients – think about users. Software designers have too many pressures to think about their users’ context. Scenarios and personas help designers keep a lot of things in mind related to the flow of users’ tasks. Personas and scenarios are a process – not a product – a method and means to an end. A persona puts a person into the interaction – the user has a task to do, and the software responds: a user goes to the web for something, and a web page offers something in response. Designing that interaction is about accurate and meaningful communication, and personas help us consider the varied contexts (business, organizational, task, environmental, etc.) of that interaction. Following are some ways we do that.
Personas describe a fictional
user in details that help stakeholders understand users’ goals,
tasks, and context surrounding the user experience we are analyzing.
Beyond demographics, the persona describes a user's motivations, overall
goals, contextual tasks, relationships, etc. Using personas in up front
design helps designers grasp a variety of usage characteristics in personal
behaviour in vignettes. Vignettes are short stories about specific
user tasks. We use them early in the design cycle, to help communicate
a product concept, sketch, or early prototype. One or more personas
will play a role in one or more vignettes. They can be quickly refined
by role playing or brainstorming. We use vignettes to build consensus
on a design team, and help the design team bring their concept to life.
Personas developed at this stage may be limited in scope, only describing
the context and motivations related to the task represented in the vignette.
Here is an example from
a research scenario we created for interviews with farmers:
“John decides whether to use a new product to improve crop production. On his web account, John selects a ‘Trail Guide’ search engine that suggests related web-sites, and helps him remember what he finds out. The ‘Trail Guide’ service stays with him as he searches other web sites about the new product. When John is ready to talk to a supplier, the ‘Trail Guide’ can connect him to suppliers who pay for the service.”
Interviewees rated this scenario highly, against tasks of
finding information, saving search results, and discussing information.
However, interviewees also told us government should play a role, rather
than just suppliers. That’s what made it a good research scenario
– we were able to test our hypotheses and gather meaningful responses.
Personas aren't something you do at the start
of a design process and then forget. They evolve along with your organization
and its website”, Bob
Doyle explains in EContent. “Personas include the skills,
the tools, and the working environment”.
Use cases are limited because
of their linear nature in characterizing user workflow. They don’t
provide for inclusion of non-linear detail about related usage, social
context, or business processes. Thus we often combine them with other
persona or scenario methods. Plus they must be abstracted before applying
to other systems or technologies – one reason why we create essential
An example of an essential
use case we constructed in a homecare project described the interaction
between a nurse and patient, high level goals, and made broad references
to systems used in those interactions. The essential use cases allowed
us to draw implications for other systems – like the need for
more bandwidth from the home rather than to the home. These essential
use cases communicated equally well with our healthcare clients, technology
partners, and executive audiences.
and personas are useful as a way of capturing the knowledge that goes
into design – the needs analysis, alternatives considered, hypotheses,
tests and evaluations, and modifications. In this sense, they are part
of an organization’s long-term Knowledge Management armory, and
one way we ensure that our client’s capabilities continue to develop
after we have completed a project. Nearing the phase when design closes,
or goes into launch, more highly refined scenarios and personas are
|Name||Job Function||Description||Personal Goals||Goals for System||Interface Implications|
|Frequent (even daily) user of system. Computer savvy.|| Sees the system as a
reflection on her. She wants it to be well thought of.
|Needs to process
groups of training
records en masse.
The deadline for early registration in our Usability challenges of new Web technologies is August 4th. Early registrants save $100. There are even more savings for group bookings. Come join us.
If you share screen shots you save in SnagIt, you can now save outputs to Flickr. SnagIt Profiles let you save your preferences so subsequent screen captures will output as you prefer. The Flickr Profile will remember to save output to your Flickr account, and even to a specific set in your account. For more see TechSmith's description of the SnagIt Flickr Profile.
Yes, people are talking more about usabilty. Technorati tracks the number of tags being used across a number of blogs last year. Click here to see that the general trend is up and to the right.
Less than a minute per newsletter – that’s the attention a newsletter gets after being opened. Nielsen Norman Group says newsletter readers are “extremely fast-paced when processing their inbox and reading newsletters”. Only one in five read it to the end, and “the predominant behavior is to scan the text”. For more, see their report on Email Newsletter Usability.
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