Recommended books on persona and scenario creation

23 Feb 2012 - 7:56am
3 years ago
8 replies
2392 reads
Chris Callaghan

The title says it all really ; )

I read a few threads on IxDA about the process of creating personas and using a modelling / plotting method to understand competencies etc, and I was wondering if anyone could recommend any "excellent" books on this topic.

Also, any recommendations on books for creating scenarios as a follow on process would be helpful as I'm looking for some linkage tools and processes in this area e.g. Research > Personas > Scenarios > Metal Models

Many thanks,




29 Feb 2012 - 5:31am
William Hudson

Chris -

I run a two-day workshop on this topic but I found that I had to build my own end-to-end approach. For research I like Karen Holtzblatt's (et al) Contextual Design (her more recent book Rapid Contextual Design is probably better value for money & time). From the the contextual design research we end up with hundreds of cards with things that our customers/users said (or that we observed them doing). You then run a affinity-diagramming workshop (also called the KJ method - Jared Spool has a nice article on the topic) to make sense of this data and to create themes. In creating personas, the themes are mostly based around behaviours - things that that group of users do or need.

The research should also tell you the kinds of goals users have (and in what contexts). These you develop into the scenarios, specifiying which persona(s) they apply to. For this I would recommend Pruit & Adlin's Persona Lifecycle; their design maps in particular.

Finally for the mental models. These are really a by-product of the scenario development. Each time somebody does something in your solution, the thing they do it to is a conceptual object (like a shopping cart) and the thing they do is an action. We have a nice notation for doing this from software engineering, called UML class models. In their native form they are quite scarey and usually far too detailed. All we need for each concept is a box which is labelled at the top with the name of the concept and a list of things that people can do with it . You can also list (in a separate part of the box) useful (to users) attributes of the object. In the shopping cart example this would be things like the number of items and total cost.

This approach is written up by some IBM usability folk (Scott Isensee, Dave Roberts and  John Mullaly) and called OVID - Objects, Views and Interaction Design. I think the book is now out of print, but you can find various references to it on the web. One that givens some good detail can be found at

I talk about OVID and using UML in user experience design in my chapter in Object Modelling and User Interface Design -

I hope to running a webinar on this topic in the not-too-distant future, drop me a line if you're interested.



William Hudson
Syntagm Ltd
User Experience Strategist
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29 Feb 2012 - 8:28am
Adam Korman

Kim Goodwin's book "Designing for the Digital Age" is a fantastic resource for all the things you're talking about:

If you did't know, Kim worked at Cooper for many years, the place where personas were invented, refined and used as the cornerstone of a scenario-based design approach.


29 Feb 2012 - 12:49pm

Pruitt's Persona Lifecycle

29 Feb 2012 - 2:04pm

Agree with Adam, Kim's Designing for the Digital Age covers this well, you might also look at the original "The Inmates are Running the Asylum - the original book on Personas by Alan Cooper


4 Mar 2012 - 5:18pm
Elizabeth Bacon

Hi Chris,

I also recommend Kim Goodwin's book. And I myself worked at Cooper at the start of my career for several years, and carried forward a scenario-based approach to design that follows nicely on the creation of data-driven personas. I taught a workshop at Interaction10 on the subject of scenarios for design, and published my slides online here: . Enjoy!



4 Mar 2012 - 6:16pm

Kim Goodwin's book is one of the best I've read dealing with personas creation...
There's also a persona toolkit available at

4 Mar 2012 - 10:07pm
Jeremy Kriegel

No persona collection would be complete without Steve Mulder's The User is Always Right. Good information and fun to read at the same time.

6 Mar 2012 - 8:03am
Chris Callaghan

Many thanks for everyone's help here! - very much appreciated.

I just need to hit Amazon with the plastic now


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