User Personas: Tools for Understanding


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An introduction to using personas to identify and understand your users or audience. Presented at the Korea Technical Communication Association symposium in Seoul on October 24, 2008.

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  • Good afternoon. This presentation focuses on a usability technique, called personas. Although much of the discussion revolves around the idea of design, this technique can be used to develop documents as well as products. During the presentation, I may use the term “product,” but please keep in mind that this technique applies to documents and web content as well.
  • User Personas: Tools for Understanding

    1. 1. Eddie Hollon User Personas: “Tools for Understanding” Presented at the 2 nd annual Korea Technical Communication Association Symposium - October 24, 2008, Seoul
    2. 2. Making the Connection: Personas as a ‘Tool of Understanding’ for Designers and Information Developers
    3. 3. Defining the problem Designers know too much and they know too little. Designers who know enough to incorporate a technology into a product know too much to understand how the users will perceive it. At the same time, designers know too little about the users’ lives to understand how the product will mesh with their work practices. - Thomas Erickson
    4. 4. “ The users are just like us”
    5. 5. “ We need something for every type of user”
    6. 6. … the solution A persona is a user archetype you can use to help guide decisions about product features, navigation, interactions, and even visual design. By designing for the archetype—whose goals and behavior patterns are well understood—you can satisfy the broader group of people represented by that archetype. - Kim Goodwin
    7. 7. “ These are the people we are designing for”
    8. 8. Walk-through: 1. Creating a persona <ul><li>Planning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What type of info do you have already? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What other info do you need? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How will get additional info? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Gathering data </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who is the person? (demographics and work details) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usage environment (when and where)? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Motivations, goals, tasks (why do they use it/need it)? </li></ul></ul>From “Usability and Accessibility” by Whitney Quesenbery
    9. 9. 2. A “recipe” of data
    10. 10. 3. Analyze what you’ve gathered <ul><li>Look for personal similarities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interaction styles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Similar backgrounds or characteristics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Patterns in attitudes or goals </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Look for similarities in tasks or activities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>By function </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>By usage patterns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>By level of experience </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Look for shared stories </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What do they tell stories about? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What words do they use? </li></ul></ul>From “Usability and Accessibility” by Whitney Quesenbery
    11. 11. 4. Fill in the details <ul><li>Bring your personas to life with details: </li></ul><ul><li>Reflect the environment or context of use </li></ul><ul><li>Differentiate the persona from others </li></ul><ul><li>Connect to usability issues </li></ul><ul><li>Get to know the persona (reveal choices, lifestyle, or activities) </li></ul>From “Usability and Accessibility” by Whitney Quesenbery
    12. 12. 5. Put a Face on the persona Generic, but representative photo Name Descriptive slogan Demographics Motivators Usage environment Scenarios Scenarios Characteristics & activities
    13. 13. Design for your persona
    14. 14. Tell stories about your personas Personas work because they tell stories. Stories are part of every community. They communicate culture, organize, and transmit information. Most importantly, they spark the imagination as you explore new ideas. They can ignite action. - Whitney Quesenbery
    15. 15. Avoid common pitfalls There is no ideal number of personas, however try to keep the set small. Four or five personas work as effective design tools, whilst over ten personas may introduce the same confusion as a large user requirements document. - Tina Calabria
    16. 16. <ul><li>Books </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Persona Lifecycle </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Letting Go of the Words </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User Interface Design for Mere Mortals </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Websites </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Usability Professionals’ Association ( ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>WQusability ( ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Redish & Associates ( ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hansem EZBlog: </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Email me: [email_address] </li></ul>Persona resources
    17. 17. Photo credits 1. “Sculpting Tourists” by jennaphoenix ( 2. “Paper Clip on White Card” by prashant_zi ( 3. “I Do Work Hard!” by julyyu ( 4. “Be Different” by vermin inc 5. “I…Just Want to Switch the Damn Channel!” by pascal-p ( 6. “Lego People” by joe shiabotnik ( 8. “Ingredients for Dinner” by pingu1963 ( 10. “Damiano’s Pizza, Dissected” by chotda ( 11. “Impromptu Cakeness” by r.b. boyer ( 14. “Princess Theater” by bubblestar ( 15. “Which Do You Look Like?” by creativity+ timothy k hamilton ( All photos in this presentation are used in accordance with the Creative Commons license (
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