Recap/commentary: Personas

14 Jun 2006 5:00 PM | Anonymous
The last Triangle UPA meeting (Wednesday 6/7, hosted by Lulu) focused on using personas in design. Robert Barlow-Busch (of Quarry Integrated Communications) presented an overview of personas: "rich descriptions of key customer groups, packaged in an engaging format and backed ideally by first-hand, ethnographic-style field research." Personas have many uses--not only can they inspire and guide design, but they can bring together different groups with an organization. In particular, they encourage communication and collaboration between marketing and user experience groups. Personas help UX and marketing talk about key assumptions, develop shared understandings, explore new products and feature spaces, and make better decisions about product scope and design. (For this collaboration to be effective, though, multiple roles and departments (sales, marketing, product management, engineering/development, etc.) must be involved throughout the creation and use of personas). Robert distinguished between primary personas (who "will be unsatisfied with a product designed for anyone else"), secondary personas (less demanding, and lower priority for design), and anti-personas (used to challenge assumptions about who the customer is). UX practitioners should strive to develop clear primary personas, because these personas illuminate the key tradeoffs and compromises in a design problem. In particular, when multiple primary personas are identified, it suggests that multiple products may be needed, so that each can be tightly focused on a particular problem and type of user. Robert pointed to Geoffrey's Moore claim that technology companies should "put all their eggs in one basket" to develop narrowly focused, but highly usable and effective products which avoid feature creep. Once developed, personas must be "marketed" to the organization. Robert told one client "the personas have to attend every meeting" and "we should never again talk about 'the user'". In other words, personas should guide every element of the design cycle, including recruiting participants for usability tests. To gain this impact, personas must be credible. Therefore, they should be clearly documented--UX professionals should explain the research and analysis methods they use to develop personas. For more on personas, see the recent book on personas, in which Robert has a chapter. - Abe Technorati :

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