A question about Personas

20 Aug 2007 - 9:58pm
6 years ago
19 replies
740 reads
Robin Cottiss
2007

Hello,

I am becoming really interested in personas. I come from a product
management background but I am working with a client to help them define
their requirements for a highly interactive web application. I want them to
approach the design from a User Experience perspective and feel that
developing some personas as early as possible in the discovery/design stage
will be valuable.

I am wondering if it would be valuable to create a repository of personas as
templates or starting points for interaction design. Does such a thing exist
already? Would a persona repository be of value to design professionals? If
a repository would have value I envisage an interchangeable format (?XML) to
give some structure to the data. Even if a persona definition is mostly
narrative I believe a good persona would have some important attributes.

Any comments?

Thanks, Robin

Comments

21 Aug 2007 - 8:15am
SemanticWill
2007

Robin, great to hear you are trying to introduce personas into the
development process - find out everything you can and creating compelling
archetypes of your user segments is an important first step. I highly
recommend a book just on personas for web applications - it's cheap and
chock full of great information about how to development them, why,
including everything from strategy down to dirty tactics - The User Is
Always Right,<http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536/ref=sr_1_1/002-5955180-9985634?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1187702041&sr=8-1>by
Mulder and Yar. check it out. (I don't know the authors, and have no
financial gain here - I just finished the book a few weeks ago, and found it
very useful, even though I have been doing personas for years).

I seriously doubt a highly interaction web application needs a persona
repository and here is why -- you really only need between 3-6 user
roles/personas to flesh out most of the goals, behaviors, and attitudes of
80% of your expected user base. Anything more than that and you may need to
divide your application - for instance if you have a web application with a
front end for business customers and personal customers (like a bank), then
you might have 2 sets of 3-6 personas.

Now the research, questionnaires, interviews, surveys, market research that
goes into personas could cover a lot of information, probably in MS Excel,
or something like that - but there is no need to create an xml based
repository - as more eloquently put that I ever could - in the book dreaming
in code - that would be spending your time sharpening your ax and less time
cutting down trees.

Hope this helps,

--
~ will

-------------------------------------
n: will evans
t: user experience architect
e: wkevans4 at gmail.com

-------------------------------------

On 8/20/07, Robin Cottiss <rcottiss at cottiss.com> wrote:
>
> Hello,
>
>
>
> I am becoming really interested in personas. I come from a product
> management background but I am working with a client to help them define
> their requirements for a highly interactive web application. I want them
> to
> approach the design from a User Experience perspective and feel that
> developing some personas as early as possible in the discovery/design
> stage
> will be valuable.
>
>
>
> I am wondering if it would be valuable to create a repository of personas
> as
> templates or starting points for interaction design. Does such a thing
> exist
> already? Would a persona repository be of value to design professionals?
> If
> a repository would have value I envisage an interchangeable format (?XML)
> to
> give some structure to the data. Even if a persona definition is mostly
> narrative I believe a good persona would have some important attributes.
>
>
>
> Any comments?
>
>
>
> Thanks, Robin
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

21 Aug 2007 - 8:47am
Stew Dean
2007

On 21/08/07, Robin Cottiss <rcottiss at cottiss.com> wrote:
> Hello,
>
> I am becoming really interested in personas. I come from a product
> management background but I am working with a client to help them define
> their requirements for a highly interactive web application. I want them to
> approach the design from a User Experience perspective and feel that
> developing some personas as early as possible in the discovery/design stage
> will be valuable.

I'm going to go against the general wisdom here and say instead of
creating Personas instead base your activity upon real user tasks. The
danger with personas is they can turn into the kinds of pencil
portraits that marketing enjoy using and this can lead onto filling in
the gaps with 'made up stuff'.

Instead I would highly recommend scenarios - (sure give the person
doing the scenario a name, but think about using a real person if you
can).

I say this because I have worked as a contractor with a well
established interactive company and when asked for source material was
given a set of personas, and little else. The personas where next to
useless as they had indication of what was real and what was imagined
and how the conclusions in the personas where reached. The personas
incidently where beautiful, had had many weeks work put into them,
lavish graphic design and wonderful writing and went into lots of
pointless detail - they just simply where too far removed from real
users.

So just to repeat - I would advise against using personas and instead
focus upon common tasks of real users if you want to get the job done.
If you're trying to impress stakeholders - heh - go do some pretty
personas.

--
Stewart Dean

21 Aug 2007 - 9:08am
SemanticWill
2007

I agree that personas - without backup material is next to useless - as
useless as sitting around talking abstractly about what XX would like to do
under YY conditions. If the personas aren't based on real research, they
don't serve much use. The backup source material, including notes from real
interviews - is invaluable. Survey responses with cleaned data in pivot
tables is also really useful in quantifying the goals of users -- but in
Stews case - if its just fictional stories, beautifully designed, and
signifying nothing relative to real people/users/customers that are actual
audiences for the product - then they are of little value other than
spending money.

On 8/21/07, Stew Dean <stewdean at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> On 21/08/07, Robin Cottiss <rcottiss at cottiss.com> wrote:
> > Hello,
> >
> > I am becoming really interested in personas. I come from a product
> > management background but I am working with a client to help them define
> > their requirements for a highly interactive web application. I want them
> to
> > approach the design from a User Experience perspective and feel that
> > developing some personas as early as possible in the discovery/design
> stage
> > will be valuable.
>
> I'm going to go against the general wisdom here and say instead of
> creating Personas instead base your activity upon real user tasks. The
> danger with personas is they can turn into the kinds of pencil
> portraits that marketing enjoy using and this can lead onto filling in
> the gaps with 'made up stuff'.
>
> Instead I would highly recommend scenarios - (sure give the person
> doing the scenario a name, but think about using a real person if you
> can).
>
> I say this because I have worked as a contractor with a well
> established interactive company and when asked for source material was
> given a set of personas, and little else. The personas where next to
> useless as they had indication of what was real and what was imagined
> and how the conclusions in the personas where reached. The personas
> incidently where beautiful, had had many weeks work put into them,
> lavish graphic design and wonderful writing and went into lots of
> pointless detail - they just simply where too far removed from real
> users.
>
> So just to repeat - I would advise against using personas and instead
> focus upon common tasks of real users if you want to get the job done.
> If you're trying to impress stakeholders - heh - go do some pretty
> personas.
>
> --
> Stewart Dean
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
~ we

-------------------------------------
n: will evans
t: user experience architect
e: wkevans4 at gmail.com

-------------------------------------

21 Aug 2007 - 10:03am
Todd Warfel
2003

On Aug 21, 2007, at 9:47 AM, Stew Dean wrote:

> I'm going to go against the general wisdom here and say instead of
> creating Personas instead base your activity upon real user tasks.
> The danger with personas is they can turn into the kinds of pencil
> portraits that marketing enjoy using and this can lead onto filling
> in the gaps with 'made up stuff'.

Which is precisely why personas should be based on real data, real
behaviors, real scenarios, and real people.

At Messagefirs, we base our personas on real tasks from real users
and include scenarios. They also have a persona DNA - a profile map
based on knowledge, activities, and behaviors of real people. You can
find out more from a workshop I did at this year's UPA on Data Driven
Design Research Personas.

http://toddwarfel.com/archives/looking-back-on-data-driven-design-
research-personas/

> [...]The personas where next to useless as they had indication of
> what was real and what was imagined and how the conclusions in the
> personas where reached. The personas incidently where beautiful,
> had had many weeks work put into them, lavish graphic design and
> wonderful writing and went into lots of pointless detail - they
> just simply where too far removed from real users.

Personas should be based on real data - not made up fuzzy feelings.
Real data. Real scenarios. Real people. The realness should come
first, beauty second. And it's entirely possible to make useful,
usable, beautiful artifacts.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 11:34am
Douglas Brashear
2007

Todd Warfel wrote:

"Real data. Real scenarios. Real people."

If there are real people backing them up, why not bag the personas and
just ask the...ahem...real people? At some point when you "documentize"
someone's input, you make inferences about them or what they would want.
At some point in your use of the persona it becomes detached from the
thoughts, needs, wants, capabilities and limitations of the actual
target audience representatives.

Personas are often represented by Interactive Designers as "virtual
participants", but they fail to consistently yield fact-based guidance
for projects. At some point a leap is made that extends the information
in the persona too far to be directly tied back to an actual user.
Sometimes, by holding them up as these virtual users, you can mistakenly
set the expectations of your project stakeholders too high.

Why not make cardboard "standees" too, and give them vices like "smoker"
or "compulsive gambler" too? ;-)

- Doug

_________________________
Doug Brashear
Senior Information Architect
NavigationArts, LLC
703.584.8933 (office)
703.725.8031 (mobile)
dbrashear at navigationarts.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Todd Zaki Warfel
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 11:03 AM
To: Stew Dean
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] A question about Personas

On Aug 21, 2007, at 9:47 AM, Stew Dean wrote:

> I'm going to go against the general wisdom here and say instead of
> creating Personas instead base your activity upon real user tasks.
> The danger with personas is they can turn into the kinds of pencil
> portraits that marketing enjoy using and this can lead onto filling
> in the gaps with 'made up stuff'.

Which is precisely why personas should be based on real data, real
behaviors, real scenarios, and real people.

At Messagefirs, we base our personas on real tasks from real users
and include scenarios. They also have a persona DNA - a profile map
based on knowledge, activities, and behaviors of real people. You can
find out more from a workshop I did at this year's UPA on Data Driven
Design Research Personas.

http://toddwarfel.com/archives/looking-back-on-data-driven-design-
research-personas/

> [...]The personas where next to useless as they had indication of
> what was real and what was imagined and how the conclusions in the
> personas where reached. The personas incidently where beautiful,
> had had many weeks work put into them, lavish graphic design and
> wonderful writing and went into lots of pointless detail - they
> just simply where too far removed from real users.

Personas should be based on real data - not made up fuzzy feelings.
Real data. Real scenarios. Real people. The realness should come
first, beauty second. And it's entirely possible to make useful,
usable, beautiful artifacts.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
Questions .................. list at ixda.org
Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

21 Aug 2007 - 12:00pm
Todd Warfel
2003

On Aug 21, 2007, at 12:34 PM, Douglas Brashear wrote:

> If there are real people backing them up, why not bag the personas
> and just ask the...ahem...real people?

We do. We use real people as one of the many inputs that provide the
data for our data-driven personas. But unlike just one "ahem...real
people" personas are representative of a particular audience. For us,
we use multiple inputs. So, our personas come from multiple real
people that fit that audience. And we continue to evolve them over
time. So, as the product or service grows and evolves, we check in
with our personas and the real people we based them off of.

> At some point when you "documentize" someone's input, you make
> inferences about them or what they would want. At some point in
> your use of the persona it becomes detached from the thoughts,
> needs, wants, capabilities and limitations of the actual target
> audience representatives.

Not in our shop they don't. That does happen in most cases, but not
here. Again, this has to do with the evolutionary lifecycle of the
persona - when done properly. They mature, just like real people.
Ours do not become detached. If they're becoming detached, you're not
doing them correctly.

> Personas are often represented by Interactive Designers as "virtual
> participants", but they fail to consistently yield fact-based
> guidance for projects. At some point a leap is made that extends
> the information in the persona too far to be directly tied back to
> an actual user. Sometimes, by holding them up as these virtual
> users, you can mistakenly set the expectations of your project
> stakeholders too high.

Again, this gets back to improper development, maturation, and use of
personas. If you're doing them correctly, this shouldn't and doesn't
happen.

> Why not make cardboard "standees" too, and give them vices like
> "smoker" or "compulsive gambler" too? ;-)

While we haven't gone that far, we've come close. And I have spoken
to others who have done this, or dressed up mannequins.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 12:24pm
Douglas Brashear
2007

Hahaha...I like answers like "not in our shop they don't". Reminds me of
the car dealer where I dropped my car this morning. ;-)

"If they're becoming detached, you're not doing them correctly." Well,
I'll just leave that one alone.

If multiple people are consulted for your personas, and the personas
mature over time like the people, and therefore the personas always
contain the same information that could be obtained directly from your
audience representatives, then congratulations, you just wasted the
amount of time and client money it took to create the personas.

Now *that's* something we don't do in "my shop". :-)

All in good fun...seriously, this seems like a great group of people. We
may disagree on points here or there, but what's most important is that
we all have a view backed by our experiences. I think I'm going to like
it here.

- Doug

_________________________

Doug Brashear

Senior Information Architect

NavigationArts, LLC

703.584.8933 (office)

703.725.8031 (mobile)

dbrashear at navigationarts.com

________________________________

From: Todd Zaki Warfel [mailto:lists at toddwarfel.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 1:01 PM
To: Douglas Brashear
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] A question about Personas

On Aug 21, 2007, at 12:34 PM, Douglas Brashear wrote:

If there are real people backing them up, why not bag the personas and
just ask the...ahem...real people?

We do. We use real people as one of the many inputs that provide the
data for our data-driven personas. But unlike just one "ahem...real
people" personas are representative of a particular audience. For us, we
use multiple inputs. So, our personas come from multiple real people
that fit that audience. And we continue to evolve them over time. So, as
the product or service grows and evolves, we check in with our personas
and the real people we based them off of.

At some point when you "documentize" someone's input, you make
inferences about them or what they would want. At some point in your use
of the persona it becomes detached from the thoughts, needs, wants,
capabilities and limitations of the actual target audience
representatives.

Not in our shop they don't. That does happen in most cases, but not
here. Again, this has to do with the evolutionary lifecycle of the
persona - when done properly. They mature, just like real people. Ours
do not become detached. If they're becoming detached, you're not doing
them correctly.

Personas are often represented by Interactive Designers as
"virtual participants", but they fail to consistently yield fact-based
guidance for projects. At some point a leap is made that extends the
information in the persona too far to be directly tied back to an actual
user. Sometimes, by holding them up as these virtual users, you can
mistakenly set the expectations of your project stakeholders too high.

Again, this gets back to improper development, maturation, and use of
personas. If you're doing them correctly, this shouldn't and doesn't
happen.

Why not make cardboard "standees" too, and give them vices like
"smoker" or "compulsive gambler" too? ;-)

While we haven't gone that far, we've come close. And I have spoken to
others who have done this, or dressed up mannequins.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel

President, Design Researcher

Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.

----------------------------------

Contact Info

Voice: (215) 825-7423

Email: todd at messagefirst.com

AIM: twarfel at mac.com

Blog: http://toddwarfel.com

----------------------------------

In theory, theory and practice are the same.

In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 12:29pm
Todd Warfel
2003

On Aug 21, 2007, at 1:24 PM, Douglas Brashear wrote:

> “If they're becoming detached, you're not doing them correctly.”
> Well, I’ll just leave that one alone.

Because?

> If multiple people are consulted for your personas, and the
> personas mature over time like the people, and therefore the
> personas always contain the same information that could be obtained
> directly from your audience representatives, then congratulations,
> you just wasted the amount of time and client money it took to
> create the personas.

Howso?

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 12:31pm
Mark Schraad
2006

Todd has nicely outlined some of the more salient points... I just
want to add a couple.

In addition to having your personae data driven, I find great value
in validating them after they are formed.

Also - much like segmentation, where more value comes by grouping
customers by desired attributes, so do personae. Do not make the
mistake of grouping or architypeing based upon demographics. This is
the slippery slope that marketing often gets caught in. You can,
however, make this easier by tracking goals.

Mark

On Aug 21, 2007, at 1:00 PM, Todd Zaki Warfel wrote:

>
> On Aug 21, 2007, at 12:34 PM, Douglas Brashear wrote:
>
>> If there are real people backing them up, why not bag the personas
>> and just ask the...ahem...real people?
>
> We do. We use real people as one of the many inputs that provide the
> data for our data-driven personas. But unlike just one "ahem...real
> people" personas are representative of a particular audience. For us,
> we use multiple inputs. So, our personas come from multiple real
> people that fit that audience. And we continue to evolve them over
> time. So, as the product or service grows and evolves, we check in
> with our personas and the real people we based them off of.
>
>> At some point when you "documentize" someone's input, you make
>> inferences about them or what they would want. At some point in
>> your use of the persona it becomes detached from the thoughts,
>> needs, wants, capabilities and limitations of the actual target
>> audience representatives.
>
> Not in our shop they don't. That does happen in most cases, but not
> here. Again, this has to do with the evolutionary lifecycle of the
> persona - when done properly. They mature, just like real people.
> Ours do not become detached. If they're becoming detached, you're not
> doing them correctly.
>
>> Personas are often represented by Interactive Designers as "virtual
>> participants", but they fail to consistently yield fact-based
>> guidance for projects. At some point a leap is made that extends
>> the information in the persona too far to be directly tied back to
>> an actual user. Sometimes, by holding them up as these virtual
>> users, you can mistakenly set the expectations of your project
>> stakeholders too high.
>
> Again, this gets back to improper development, maturation, and use of
> personas. If you're doing them correctly, this shouldn't and doesn't
> happen.
>
>> Why not make cardboard "standees" too, and give them vices like
>> "smoker" or "compulsive gambler" too? ;-)
>
> While we haven't gone that far, we've come close. And I have spoken
> to others who have done this, or dressed up mannequins.
>
>
> Cheers!
>
> Todd Zaki Warfel
> President, Design Researcher
> Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
> ----------------------------------
> Contact Info
> Voice: (215) 825-7423
> Email: todd at messagefirst.com
> AIM: twarfel at mac.com
> Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
> ----------------------------------
> In theory, theory and practice are the same.
> In practice, they are not.
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

21 Aug 2007 - 12:38pm
SemanticWill
2007

"Again, this has to do with the evolutionary lifecycle of the
persona - when done properly. They mature, just like real people.
Ours do not become detached. If they're becoming detached, you're not
doing them correctly."

This brings up an important point - which is the evolutionary process
(philosophy/religion/cult) of UCD - part of the persona process is
(hopefully) integration of the interviews and surveys you did which
determined the categorization of the user segments/roles - backed up with
usability testing of concepts, even if your just doing quick and dirty
testing of paper prototypes - so as your products mature, and you start
brainstorming new features and functions, you bring the personas back,
validate them, and test the prototypes against the users, while any further
information about users refined, edits, changes your personas - they are
living, just like the users they were based on. This is particularly
important in "web 2.0" (sorry - please don't shoot me for using the term)
companies that may change business strategy 3-4 times within the first
couple of years. (Anecdote Alert): when we first concieved of the User
interface and user interaction for kayak.com, our real target was tech-savvy
power internet users who wanted a boatload of features, social networking,
rating/ranking hotels and cruises - and i created some quick and dirty
personas based on some interviews to meet that strategy based audience
definition. Later - through surveys and usability testing - we discovered
that a huge--major portion of our users were in fact baby-boomers and
retired people - with lots of time/fixed income - looking for good deals -
and not newbies, but certainly not l33t hackers -- so we started making
changes to the interface, redesigned and rebuilt the UI from flash/flex to
ajax/xhtml so that we could have scaling fonts, faster downloaded/no plugin
- and focused on our aging audience. I also ended up rewriting some of my
personas based on our new segments, which led to burying the social
networking aspects of kayak - and letting tripadvisor own that space - since
we were making money booking flights and hotels.

So thats my $0.02

--
~ we

-------------------------------------
n: will evans
t: user experience architect
e: wkevans4 at gmail.com

-------------------------------------

On 8/21/07, Douglas Brashear <dbrashear at navigationarts.com> wrote:
>
> Hahaha...I like answers like "not in our shop they don't". Reminds me of
> the car dealer where I dropped my car this morning. ;-)
>
>
>
> "If they're becoming detached, you're not doing them correctly." Well,
> I'll just leave that one alone.
>
>
>
> If multiple people are consulted for your personas, and the personas
> mature over time like the people, and therefore the personas always
> contain the same information that could be obtained directly from your
> audience representatives, then congratulations, you just wasted the
> amount of time and client money it took to create the personas.
>
>
>
> Now *that's* something we don't do in "my shop". :-)
>
>
>
> All in good fun...seriously, this seems like a great group of people. We
> may disagree on points here or there, but what's most important is that
> we all have a view backed by our experiences. I think I'm going to like
> it here.
>
>
>
> - Doug
>
>
>
> _________________________
>
> Doug Brashear
>
> Senior Information Architect
>
> NavigationArts, LLC
>
> 703.584.8933 (office)
>
> 703.725.8031 (mobile)
>
> dbrashear at navigationarts.com
>
> ________________________________
>
> From: Todd Zaki Warfel [mailto:lists at toddwarfel.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 1:01 PM
> To: Douglas Brashear
> Cc: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] A question about Personas
>
>
>
>
>
> On Aug 21, 2007, at 12:34 PM, Douglas Brashear wrote:
>
>
>
>
>
> If there are real people backing them up, why not bag the personas and
> just ask the...ahem...real people?
>
>
>
> We do. We use real people as one of the many inputs that provide the
> data for our data-driven personas. But unlike just one "ahem...real
> people" personas are representative of a particular audience. For us, we
> use multiple inputs. So, our personas come from multiple real people
> that fit that audience. And we continue to evolve them over time. So, as
> the product or service grows and evolves, we check in with our personas
> and the real people we based them off of.
>
>
>
>
>
> At some point when you "documentize" someone's input, you make
> inferences about them or what they would want. At some point in your use
> of the persona it becomes detached from the thoughts, needs, wants,
> capabilities and limitations of the actual target audience
> representatives.
>
>
>
> Not in our shop they don't. That does happen in most cases, but not
> here. Again, this has to do with the evolutionary lifecycle of the
> persona - when done properly. They mature, just like real people. Ours
> do not become detached. If they're becoming detached, you're not doing
> them correctly.
>
>
>
> Personas are often represented by Interactive Designers as
> "virtual participants", but they fail to consistently yield fact-based
> guidance for projects. At some point a leap is made that extends the
> information in the persona too far to be directly tied back to an actual
> user. Sometimes, by holding them up as these virtual users, you can
> mistakenly set the expectations of your project stakeholders too high.
>
>
>
> Again, this gets back to improper development, maturation, and use of
> personas. If you're doing them correctly, this shouldn't and doesn't
> happen.
>
>
>
> Why not make cardboard "standees" too, and give them vices like
> "smoker" or "compulsive gambler" too? ;-)
>
>
>
> While we haven't gone that far, we've come close. And I have spoken to
> others who have done this, or dressed up mannequins.
>
>
>
>
> Cheers!
>
>
>
> Todd Zaki Warfel
>
> President, Design Researcher
>
> Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
>
> ----------------------------------
>
> Contact Info
>
> Voice: (215) 825-7423
>
> Email: todd at messagefirst.com
>
> AIM: twarfel at mac.com
>
> Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
>
> ----------------------------------
>
> In theory, theory and practice are the same.
>
> In practice, they are not.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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>

21 Aug 2007 - 12:42pm
Todd Warfel
2003

And that's how it should be done.

On Aug 21, 2007, at 1:38 PM, W Evans wrote:

> I also ended up rewriting some of my personas based on our new
> segments, which led to burying the social networking aspects of
> kayak - and letting tripadvisor own that space - since we were
> making money booking flights and hotels.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 12:52pm
Petteri Hiisilä
2004

> I am wondering if it would be valuable to create a repository of
> personas as
> templates or starting points for interaction design. Does such a
> thing exist
> already? Would a persona repository be of value to design
> professionals? If
> a repository would have value I envisage an interchangeable format
> (?XML) to
> give some structure to the data. Even if a persona definition is
> mostly
> narrative I believe a good persona would have some important
> attributes.

Personas do have attributes, and they are the source of the
narrative. We've also thought about making some kind of repository of
the research data, but it isn't really needed.

It has been far more important to spend the limited time we have with
real users. You personally, if you're going to be the interaction
designer. For a simple consumer product we tend to interview 10-20
people. For complex enterprise product set we tend to interview 40-80
people, including end user (candidates), subject matter experts and
stakeholders.

There's a well defined and reproducable way to create personas, and
tons of ways they have been misunderstood. Personas were first
mentioned (popularized) in Alan Cooper's "The Inmates Are Running the
Asylum : Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How To Restore The
Sanity" in 1999, but that book didn't describe how to make them ... ;)

From the same source came "About Face 3: The Essentials of
Interaction Design", in 2007 which finally (!) explains in detail how
Cooper - the source - actually creates personas. I took their
Interaction Design Practicum in 2004, which was the best career move
I've ever made. Highly recommended. Take yourself, your colleague and
your boss there if you can. Read those two books before you go to get
everything out of it.

Some things to help you in the beginning, I hope I'm not too vague.

Do:

+ Perform the user interviews personally, with a partner.
+ Interview and observe until you you have a firm feeling that
you know thy users. There comes a point where you can guess
their answers pretty well in advance. You'll know it.
+ Research all the literature about the subject matter and interview
experts until you've become an expert too. It's good to be a
subject matter expert and a designer, but you need to keep those
roles separate.
+ Base your personas in behaviors and goals, not demographics,
eating habits or which car they drive. (check the books and/or
take the Practicum for essentials on this.)
+ Behavioral variables are the source of the narrative. Well
written personas will encapsulate behavioral information
"between the lines", and further repositories won't add much
value. This may be hard to understand/accept at first.
+ User personas as actors in your scenarios. Start with high-level
context scenarios describing the future behavior. No interface
details yet.
+ Create high-level requirements based on personas and high-level
scenarios.
+ Use these requirements to come up with the actual design. There
are (almost) repeatable methods for design, and I prefer Cooper's
Goal-Directed Design. They know everything about personas and are
helpful even after the practicum when you need tips or ideas.
+ Define the detail level interactions and scenarios using
your personas and elaborating on the high-level scenarios.
+ Use a lot of paper and whiteboard, or even napkins during
the design process!

Don't:

- Don't design with a persona set that isn't based on thorough
user observation and interviews. You'll lose credibility and
make guesses. Users will surprise you often in the interviews.
- Don't design with a set that wasn't researched for this product
or service. It's an exception that the same set works with a
different product.
- Don't bake the scenarios inside personas. They are meant to
describe how 1) people behave 2) right now. They are NOT
meant to describe how the design will behave in the future!
(Use separate scenarios for that and add details step by step)

Personas are tricky business. I suggest that you do some reading
first and pick up an easy pilot project to become familiar with the
tool and to make a positive impact inside your organization.

About personas:

http://www.cooper.com/insights/journal_of_design/articles/personas/

The Origin of Personas
Taking Personas Too Far
Getting from Research to Personas: Harnessing the Power of Data
Perfecting Your Personas

About organization, process and pilot project issues:

http://www.cooper.com/insights/journal_of_design/articles/index.html

Design Research: Why You Need it
Ten Ways to Kill Design
5 Ways to Get the Most from In-House Designers
The Iteration Trap

About behaviors and features:

http://www.cooper.com/insights/journal_of_design/articles/
features_talk_but_behaviors_cl_1.html

I hope this helps you forward. Good luck!

Petteri

--
Petteri Hiisilä
Senior Interaction Designer
iXDesign / +358505050123 /
petteri.hiisila at ixdesign.fi

"Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated."
- Tim Peters

21 Aug 2007 - 1:05pm
Douglas Brashear
2007

Todd sez: "Howso?"

Well, why create and maintain documents merely recording the information
that could be obtained, at strategic points, "straight from the horse's
mouth"? Perhaps heavily documented process is what you have to do based
on your clients (we've all been there). Just seems like a waste.

Unless, of course, those documents are taken further, eventually
becoming detached from the users because not *every* piece of
information they contain comes directly from not just one user, but a
significant sampling of the target audience the persona represents. In
that case, we get back to my initial comment about personas.

I find that a less contrived representation of target audience
intelligence works well for my clients. I say "less contrived" because
of the inappropriate expectations that personas sometimes cause for
those not used to working with them. After meeting user group
representatives I first categorize by audience type or role, next by the
most appropriate subcategorization and so on until all major segments of
the audience in question have been identified.

I'm not sure how long your projects last, but I generally have 2 - 3
months or so to drop the hammer on a project. That includes requirements
and audience identification, high ROI user research (depends on the
project), first conceptualization for stakeholder buy-in, interaction
flows/site maps and mid-double digit wireframes (to whatever scale or
level of detail required). It sure would be nice to have the time to
decorate standies, but my clients would likely have an issue with me
using their cash for the task. The whole time we're working
collaboratively with not only the users, but also the stakeholders and
the project team itself.

When it all comes down to it, I've never seen a project that could have
justified the additional time and expense (over the target audience
analysis I already perform) for the personas I see coming from some
agencies/consultants, and really question what additional value, if any,
doing such would have yielded. YMMV.

BTW, what's the charge number for this thread?

- Doug :-)

_________________________

Doug Brashear

Senior Information Architect

NavigationArts, LLC

703.584.8933 (office)

703.725.8031 (mobile)

dbrashear at navigationarts.com

________________________________

From: Todd Zaki Warfel [mailto:lists at toddwarfel.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 1:29 PM
To: Douglas Brashear
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] A question about Personas

On Aug 21, 2007, at 1:24 PM, Douglas Brashear wrote:

"If they're becoming detached, you're not doing them correctly." Well,
I'll just leave that one alone.

Because?

If multiple people are consulted for your personas, and the
personas mature over time like the people, and therefore the personas
always contain the same information that could be obtained directly from
your audience representatives, then congratulations, you just wasted the
amount of time and client money it took to create the personas.

Howso?

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel

President, Design Researcher

Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.

----------------------------------

Contact Info

Voice: (215) 825-7423

Email: todd at messagefirst.com

AIM: twarfel at mac.com

Blog: http://toddwarfel.com

----------------------------------

In theory, theory and practice are the same.

In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 1:15pm
Douglas Brashear
2007

Todd said: "And that's how it should be done."

Errr, ok. You know, you *can* update any documentation along the way. In
fact, I recommend it and do it myself. I just don't call my target
audience analysis "personas", as I don't try to claim that a document is
or should be like a person. It's a document. It doesn't feel, doesn't
perform an action and can't give you feedback. Real users do that. I
prefer to ask them personally for the important things.

Wow, nothing like meeting an off-putting person to get the juices
flowing. I should thread with Todd every morning and give up caffeine
once and for all.

_________________________

Doug Brashear

Senior Information Architect

NavigationArts, LLC

703.584.8933 (office)

703.725.8031 (mobile)

dbrashear at navigationarts.com

________________________________

From: Todd Zaki Warfel [mailto:lists at toddwarfel.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 1:42 PM
To: W Evans
Cc: Douglas Brashear; discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] A question about Personas

And that's how it should be done.

On Aug 21, 2007, at 1:38 PM, W Evans wrote:

I also ended up rewriting some of my personas based on our new segments,
which led to burying the social networking aspects of kayak - and
letting tripadvisor own that space - since we were making money booking
flights and hotels.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel

President, Design Researcher

Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.

----------------------------------

Contact Info

Voice: (215) 825-7423

Email: todd at messagefirst.com

AIM: twarfel at mac.com

Blog: http://toddwarfel.com

----------------------------------

In theory, theory and practice are the same.

In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 1:29pm
Todd Warfel
2003

Uh, what?

On Aug 21, 2007, at 2:05 PM, Douglas Brashear wrote:

> Well, why create and maintain documents merely recording the
> information that could be obtained, at strategic points, “straight
> from the horse’s mouth”? Perhaps heavily documented process is what
> you have to do based on your clients (we’ve all been there). Just
> seems like a waste.

Who says they're heavily documented? Did you look at the slides from
my Data-driven Design Research presentation? If you did, you'd see
they're a one pager each. Hardly what I would consider heavily
documented.

We're not ones for doing documentation just for documentation
purposes. In fact, the company name Messagefirst comes from "message
first - method second." Our underlying philosophy is that the message
or goal drives the method we choose. We don't do process for process
sake. We don't do documentation for documentation sake. We pick
what's most appropriate and do that based on needs and resources.

> Unless, of course, those documents are taken further, eventually
> becoming detached from the users because not *every* piece of
> information they contain comes directly from not just one user, but
> a significant sampling of the target audience the persona
> represents. In that case, we get back to my initial comment about
> personas.

Detached how? You keep saying detached, but how are they becoming
detached? If they're becoming detached, not evolving, not growing,
not maturing, then you're doing them wrong. Perhaps you've only
encountered incorrect personas.

> I find that a less contrived representation of target audience
> intelligence works well for my clients. I say “less contrived”
> because of the inappropriate expectations that personas sometimes
> cause for those not used to working with them. After meeting user
> group representatives I first categorize by audience type or role,
> next by the most appropriate subcategorization and so on until all
> major segments of the audience in question have been identified.

Do you mean contrived as designed, or artificially formal? If
designed, are you saying that a less designed model works better for
your clients? If artificially formal, I hardly see personae as being
artificially formal, but again, that may be based on the model we
use. I'm not sure what kind of model you've encountered (you haven't
really shared that yet).

Because of what inappropriate expectations personas create?

BTW, the process you're describing to segment is pretty common. While
it sounds rather exhaustive and lengthly based on your description,
in my experience, it's something that can be done in at most a couple
of hours with the right info and right people involved.

> I’m not sure how long your projects last, but I generally have 2 –
> 3 months[...]

That's pretty typical for us as well.

> When it all comes down to it, I’ve never seen a project that could
> have justified the additional time and expense (over the target
> audience analysis I already perform) for the personas I see coming
> from some agencies/consultants, and really question what additional
> value, if any, doing such would have yielded. YMMV.

And I've never encountered a project that couldn't (didn't) benefit
from them. The "additional time and expense" represents a huge ROI to
the client. Perhaps you should study personas a bit more to uncover
their true benefit. Try About Face, The User is Always Right for
starters.

I'd be interested to see an example of the target audience analysis
you use. Care to share? I'm sure there's something in there the
community could benefit from.

I'm curious how you address opinion wars during design. How you
prevent scope creep? How you handle suggestions from marketing,
business, and dev that might sound good, but aren't on target with
audience needs? How do you handle unified vs. segmented audiences?
How do you keep the 8-24 or more people working on the project on the
same page when design and dev gets distributed?

Can you get by without them? Sure, you can get by without wireframes
too, or a prototype, but I wouldn't ever do that.

> BTW, what’s the charge number for this thread?

Huh?

BTW, Doug, please trim your posts in the future.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 1:36pm
Todd Warfel
2003

On Aug 21, 2007, at 2:15 PM, Douglas Brashear wrote:

> Wow, nothing like meeting an off-putting person to get the juices
> flowing. I should thread with Todd every morning and give up
> caffeine once and for all.

Doug,

First of all, this list is for professionals and we try and treat
each other with respect. So, please keep unprofessional character
insults like "an off-putting person to get the juices flowing..." to
yourself, or off the public list. Try and show some respect.

> Todd said: “And that's how it should be done.”
>
> Errr, ok. You know, you *can* update any documentation along the
> way. In fact, I recommend it and do it myself. I just don’t call my
> target audience analysis “personas”, as I don’t try to claim that a
> document is or should be like a person. It’s a document. It doesn’t
> feel, doesn’t perform an action and can’t give you feedback. Real
> users do that. I prefer to ask them personally for the important
> things.

I don't think I need to get into a discussion on the usefulness of
artifacts (documents). As to preferring to speak to them personally,
well, of course. I'm sure we all do. But the point of a persona isn't
to record what you find, so much as it is to communicate it to the
others on the team. It's a point of reference for when you're not
around. Unless, of course your clients live with you night and day,
listening to every conversation. I doubt that would be a good use of
anyones time.

Personas, like many other artifacts, are a way to communicate
synthesized information to an audience other than yourself. They're a
way to keep everyone on the same page - even keep you, the designer,
the researcher, on the mark.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 4:19pm
Robin Cottiss
2007

There are some great points here and, yes please, please, do keep this
professional and respectful of differing points of view. A subject
that promotes passionate debate is usually an important subject and
worth discussing.

I will post more replies to individual comments later but I have a
technical question for Todd and a clarification about my repository
question.

Todd, how do you post your replies so you get the nice in-line
quotes? Is this just how you are formatting in your email client?
Your method is very readable.

Regarding repositories - I was not suggesting creating a repository
for a single project but I was wondering about the value of a
community repository that would contain many personas. I imagined a
designer on a new project being able to search the repository for
representative personas as a starting point. Alternatively the
repository would a learning resource. This perhaps make more sense
from the comments here about personas being developed from research
and real users.

My interest in a repository is related to newness to this field. When
I join a new community and I am learning about new stuff with the help
of the community I look to see how I can give back to the community as
well. My ideal approach is to learn by doing something that might be
of value to the community as well as myself.

Robin

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=19554

21 Aug 2007 - 4:22pm
Todd Warfel
2003

I just click to the quoted section, then double return to create a
break, then insert my comments there.

BTW, I use Apple Mail, but you can do it with pretty much any mail
client.

On Aug 21, 2007, at 5:19 PM, Robin Cottiss wrote:

> Todd, how do you post your replies so you get the nice in-line
> quotes? Is this just how you are formatting in your email client?
> Your method is very readable.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

21 Aug 2007 - 4:24pm
Mark Schraad
2006

A repository with examples of how to present and use personae makes
complete sense. A library of generic personae that designs can re-use
makes almost no sense. Personae need to be specific to the audience
and the offering. Otherwise they are about as useless as prepackaged
market segmentation clusters.

Mark

On Aug 21, 2007, at 5:19 PM, Robin Cottiss wrote:

> Regarding repositories - I was not suggesting creating a repository
> for a single project but I was wondering about the value of a
> community repository that would contain many personas. I imagined a
> designer on a new project being able to search the repository for
> representative personas as a starting point. Alternatively the
> repository would a learning resource. This perhaps make more sense
> from the comments here about personas being developed from research
> and real users.

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