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July 31 2012

13:30

Running a Successful User Workshop

For UX professionals, talking to real users is undoubtedly an important part of the process. Our clients are experts in their industries and we are experts in ours but the best way to learn what users do, think, and want is to ask them directly.

Users aren’t fictional; who do you want to speak to?

That’s where user workshops come in handy. In essence, user workshops are sessions where we invite people who have a connection with our client to meet and talk about their experiences. Through workshops we can draw together groups of real people and quiz them about their behaviours and opinions.

User workshops won’t tell you exactly what to do but, if run correctly, they can give you invaluable insight at the crucial early stages of a project. They can also be relatively inexpensive to run.

Group dynamics can also lead to interesting discoveries that we can’t get from other forms of user consultation. For example, a user may be inspired by the debate and thus encouraged to share views when they may otherwise remain silent.

All this sounds good, yes? Here’s some advice to help you setup your next user workshop.

Before your workshop

The best workshops take planning. Start by talking with your colleagues and/or clients about your reasons for wanting to hold a user workshop:

  • Who do you want to speak to?
  • What information are you hoping to obtain?
  • What topics of discussion would presumably provide the most insight?

Next, recruit well. Recruiting users is always the hardest job because it takes longer than you think. When it comes to recruiting users, it doesn’t matter if you use a specialist recruiter (e.g. Acumen) or if you drag them in off the street. As long as you determine who you want to speak to, how many people you want and what you will give them for their time. Be sure to incentivise well: £25-£50 in hard cash is enough to ensure people turn up but not so much that they just come for the money

Create profiles of the kind of people you want to talk to. Preferably people who already understand the product or service you are discussing. Be sure to get the numbers right. Up to six people is a good number for a simple discussion, 12 to 18 is better if you want something more involved with breakout sessions

Prepare your users. Whatever time you set aside for your workshops you don’t want to spend a large chunk of it explaining why people are in the room and then another chunk sitting in silence while everyone has a good think about it. Instead, send participants an email or letter about a week before the actual session that explains where it will be, how long it will take, what you want to talk about, what they should bring with them (do you want them to look at a website beforehand?)

Get the setting right. If you can, visit the intended venue for your workshop to make sure it’s up to the job – Is it big enough and in the best location? Does it have the right facilities? – Get a feel for where everyone will sit and move around.

Kickoff

Workshops will inevitable be an alien environment for your users. For some, the idea of sharing their thoughts with a roomful of strangers will be downright scary. At the start of the session you should smile and run through a simple checklist, saying something akin to:

  • The session will largely involve open discussion and I want you to speak up!
  • I’ll give you support but I want you to do the majority of the talking.
  • Be vocal. The more you say, the more I will understand what to do next.
  • Be honest. All your views ‐ positive and negative ‐ are important.
  • I am not the client and anything you say will remain confidential.
  • Finally, and most importantly, there is no such thing as a silly idea. I want to approach things afresh, without preconceptions or perceived limitations.

Make the most of your time

At this point you have achieved something relatively rare – you have gathered users together in one room. Don’t waste the opportunity! Work hard to avoid dull monologues peppered with uncomfortable silences. One of the best ways to get the blood pumping and conversation flowing is to get people out of their chairs. Hand out post-it notes and pens. As you progress through the session, encourage people to scribble down their ideas and stick them on the nearest wall.

You are looking for breadth, not depth so avoid spending too long on any specific subject (e.g. the pros and cons of social media); don’t be afraid to close discussions down if you think a particular topic has been wrung dry.

Remember you are dealing with different personalities. Encourage the quiet ones to speak and wrestle the talking stick from the verbose, but do it in a nice way. Mike B. Fisher provides an excellent observation on differing personality traits and how to deal with them in his article, Understanding User Personalities.

Don’t hold the baton!

And when it comes to talking: don’t hold the baton. People naturally want to fill silences; shutting up will encourage others to talk. When I put a question to a group I count to ten in my head before saying anything else. I usually get to about six before someone says something and… off we go!

Record the events. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be too busy running the session to take notes so get someone else to help you, or use a Dictaphone or a video camera to record what people say and do. For me, voice recordings are most useful. I can play them over and over again and a lot of what users say then tends to sink into my brain through osmosis.

And if you’ve used post-it notes take pictures of everything before you take them off the wall ‐ you’ll soon forget how they were laid out.

Report back

However you communicate what you’ve learned, make sure you do it in a quick, easy-to-understand way. Nobody reads 150-page, wordy reports so be economical with the detail.

I prefer to sit and talk through the findings. I may support the discussion with simple, visual presentations and use recorded clips if they help to make a particular point.

I will sometimes create a more-involved document to be circulated to the masses, but even then I avoid wordyness. I rely hugely on images and simple bullet point lists and aim to produce something that anyone can skim in a couple of minutes and get the general gist.

In sum: next time, don’t just think about your users, talk to them!


The post Running a Successful User Workshop appeared first on UX Booth.

April 24 2012

13:30

Breaking Out of the UX Status Quo

As a UX Designer you’ve committed your career to helping people. You challenge the status quo everyday…but are you challenging it enough? How about with your deliverables? Your customers are people, too! Are your common deliverables – personas, sitemaps, user-flows and wireframes – really usable or are they just getting in the way?

It’s no secret to us: user experience designers speak their own language. From personas to user journeys, card sorts to wireframes, there’s a certain vernacular to our profession. It’s something that we learn over the years but that our clientele must overcome immediately.

Frustrated with the conventional deliverables used to communicate our work, I began to reconsider their presentation. What resulted is certainly not “conventional,” but – taken together – they are arguably more usable.

Personas are like resumés

Personas come in all shapes and sizes. Contrary to what they’re designed to do, however, rarely do they convey a good sense of the user. Most look like resumés: sterile and lacking in personality.

When was the last time you hired someone based on their resumé alone? Even with a resumé you still need to conduct an interview in order effectively gauge a prospect. Seeing someone and listening to their words reveals their personality – the key element missing from most personas.

So I started a searching for a better way. The first thing I did was move my deliverables online. This allowed me to link them together so that clients could click between them. For desktop projects I use Axure and for mobile and tablet I use Proto.io. Both of them are great tools as they create clickable, HTML-based output.

Next, I searched high and low for inspiration. This persona, created by User Insight, is definitely different. Therein, the user (Tina) does not consist of mere bullet points; she comes off as a real person. Jason Travis’s personas are infinitely more visual. Being picture-based, though, they lack any descriptive text whatsoever.

Inspired by these (plus adding my ideas and style) I tried to put together a new version of the traditional persona.

Barnabas's persona

You can view a demo here.

This approach paints a much more holistic picture of a person. Not only does it include their goals, it includes important, ancillary information such as their worldview, what they are looking for and their motivation. Further, the overheard conversation adds just the right amount of insight into his/her life. The “questions” section helps identify the areas the target user is unsure of and the “life pieces” section makes the persona human-like with feelings and desires.

Sitemaps are like spiderwebs

Sitemaps are (as most of you know) used to “map” the major components of a website to a rather sparse-looking diagram. Because they’re so sparse, they also tend leave a lot to the imagination. This gives rise to common retort: “What’s this page do, again?” “Can you change this page to that?” “How about we scrap that page”

You know the routine. Because clients come to us for the visual thinking they often can’t turn these sparse diagrams into anything “useful” on their own.

This got me thinking: why not just put the thinking alongside the map?

Barnabas's persona

You can view a demo here.

Even though it’s just a small difference, this approach pays off. It helps our clients understand the internal monologue that drives the narrative. Knowing the reasoning behind your decisions helps others understand (and agree) with your perspective.

User journeys are like electric panel diagrams

User journeys map the steps of a user, correlating goals (explained in Personas) with a site map to better illustrate how users will get things done. As a result, designers can make informed suggestions to the site’s information architecture.

The problem is that most user-flows are very dry. It is difficult to feel empathy with a user and their journey if all you see are boxes and arrows (similar to electric panel diagrams).

After scouring the internet looking for something better I found a couple of good approaches.

Jakub Linowski's user flow

Jakub Linowski’s Grand Narratives & Play Points diagram offers a compelling yet easy-to–understand presentation based on wireframes.

A user journey from the Bluepoint+ deliverable framework

Blueprint+ (Service Design Visual) is great because it includes the persona and a timeline.

Carlos Abler's user journey

Carlos Abler’s Multiuser WireFlows combines the two former ideas.

All of these are good but they all seemed to be missing something.

I’ve been always fan of recycling, so I thought there has to be a way to re-use the sitemap and display the user-flow on it. I also wanted to re-use my personas in order to create empathy for the user’s journey. This led me to the following presentation:

Barnabas Nagy's user flow

You can also view a demo here.

As you can see, I simply re-used my sitemap and added one of my persona with speech bubbles. In the speech bubbles I added the thoughts of the persona at every stage of their journey. This adds a human touch. The thoughts of the persona can explain to clients the reasons for the journey taken and the scenario puts these thoughts into context. It is simple but visually understandable way to show your user-flow.

Clients that already understand your sitemaps and personas will have no trouble seeing the two work together.

Prototypes/wireframes are like abandoned houses

Wireframes created in the absence of personas are broken. Yet we do this all the time. Why do we create personas if we don’t use them?

Looking for a better way, I saw a picture in the essay of Rósa Gudjónsdóttir:

A man working next to two cardboard cutouts of personas.

I was fascinated by the idea of having my personas around me. I started to print my personas and stick them to the wall in front of me. It helped, however, the screen and the wall are two different worlds, analog and digital. No good.

I eventually placed my personas in the margin of my prototype to serve as a constant reminder of who my users are:

A wireframe juxtaposed with persona avatars.

You can also view a demo here.

Not only does this help us to not design for ourselves, our clients and stakeholders are now constantly reminded who will use our design. The time and effort we put into establishing our personas is never lost.

Never stop learning

As I mentioned earlier, these ideas have helped me better convey my work to my clientele. They are not perfect, of course, nor were they intended to be. I am certain that it is possible to tweak them or in fact come up with even better presentations that work for you.

Are you also frustrated with common UX processes or deliverables? Don’t let the status quo get you. Always try to make things better, iterate and optimize. Surprise your users – err, clients – with something new and innovative as this is the way forward. If you’ve tried your hand at something different, be sure to share your result in the comments below!


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20:51

September 11 2011

10:00

Personalize Your Browser: How to Create Your Own Firefox Skins

The Internet browser is the user’s vehicle to all online information. Whether we are checking email, managing accounts, facilitating business, or watching movies, without a browser we would be stuck. Most of us do not give the browser the credit it deserves and this is probably because most of us are not really interested in our browser itself; we are instead interested in what our browser provides us.

Firefox brings us the best of what a browser has to offer the user. Here, you will not only find a vehicle for online information, you will also find a vehicle for personal interests. Firefox allows you to enjoy personalized browser themes that are tailored to the individual user. There are a host of things to keep in mind when creating and designing Firefox skins.

Type of Firefox Theme

There are different styles of skins for Firefox ranging from a single, flat image to a robust combination of graphics and content. Your audience’s needs and desires will shape the best path for you to take.

Personas

Pros: Single image that’s easy to create.

Cons:Limited to distribution through GetPersonas.com. Provides simple background image only.

Mozilla defines a Persona as a lightweight theme that changes the look of your browser without changing the navigation buttons, toolbars, and menus.You can also preview a design by hovering over an image and install it in one click without needing to restart.

A Persona is basically a single image 3,000 x 200 pixels under 300K and only available at Mozilla’s GetPersonas.com site. When you go to the site and look at the gallery of Personas, you’ll see the entire image on a page. This is not what your users will experience. You can hover on the “Wear this Persona” button to see how it will look in the browser.

As a designer, you want to recognize that only about a quarter of the image will be seen by most users. The shaded region in the image below shows the area viewed by the majority of users. The “extra” space helps with wide resolution monitors or for the vertical height for users with multiple toolbars.

This is a single-layer flat file, you see a portion of the image and as the browser is resized you see more or less of the of the image.

LadyBug1

LadyBug2

http://www.getpersonas.com/en-US/persona/25991

Enhanced Personas

Pros: Layered graphics and full CSS for a more versatile layout. Galleries can be offered outside of Mozilla’s GetPersonas.com. Once a user has installed Personas Interactive, the preview and ease of install mirrors the regular Personas experience exactly.

Cons: Users have an extra step of installing the Personas Interactive extension for Firefox.http://brandthunder.com/personas

Enhanced Personas allow for the full range of CSS background attributes to be applied to the background, as well as providing more control over color. A backgroundImage attribute is required for an Enhanced Persona. Without it, no other Enhanced Personas attributes are processed.

Enhanced Personas give the designer more control and flexibility over the theme experience. The designer gets to use layers of images that are anchored independently of each other. For the images below, the ladybug is layered on top of the grass. As the browser is resized, the ladybug maintains position in the relative center of the theme.

When working with clients and brands, we find a lot of value by anchoring a logo to the left of the browser, a style element that anchors to the right and a color or texture underlying both that keeps the design seamless as the browser is resized.

LadyBug3

LadyBug4

Browser Theme

Pros: A completely unique experience that can serve a particular audience’s exact needs.

Cons: A great deal of work if you theme each attribute of the theme.

Themes change the full appearance of the browser including navigation buttons, toolbars, and menus. Installing a theme requires you to restart your browser, like with extensions and other add-ons. And as you can expect, something that goes into this level of detail is quite a bit of work. Ever since the release of Firefox 3.6 in January 2010, which built Personas into the browser, the volume of themes created has dropped off dramatically. The capability, however, remains.

Full description of how to create a theme is still available. Mozilla’s own blog offers a good place to start exploring the options.

If you need a fully redesigned experience, this is the way to go. For example, if you want to create a Steampunk browser theme, you’re not going to be able to give every element that style without redesigning each navigation element.The popular Night Theme for Firefox, shown below, exhibits some of these attributes.

NightLaunchTheme

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/nasa-night-launch/

Interactive Browser Theme

Pros:Visual redesign with engagement that increases interaction between a site and its theme users.

Cons:Listing product on Mozilla’s Add-ons site does not fall under their definition of Personas or Themes.

The Interactive Browser Theme is a step beyond an Enhanced Personas by adding content and functionality to the theme experience.This can give the users a more immersive experience related to the theme they’ve installed. It is also far less work than a full theme as it maintains the normal navigation elements of the browser.

The interactive component is also important for many brands seeking more than the brand awareness a theme can offer. The links and content drive up return site visits, purchases and engagement with the social media efforts of a brand. All are contributors to a company’s return of investment for their web investment.

Using a tool like http://bt-engage.com gives designers the ability to add a logo to their design. This is a left-hand graphic that moves the navigation to the right giving an unobstructed view of the logo. Logo integrity is a requirement of some brands and good flexibility to have.

DailyBeastTheme

http://thunderthemes.com/BT_ThemePage.php?themeid=159

Design Requirements

Basic Dimensions

Plan your Firefox theme with a 200 pixel high image. Your audience won’t see all of it, but it will address the majority of Firefox users while serving those with extra toolbars. For reference, users with Firefox versions 3.6 and below will see about 85 pixels by default. Firefox 4.0+ shows 110 pixels.

If you use a single background image, it’s best to follow the recommendation for Personas and make it 3,000 pixels wide. The majority of users still have resolutions from 1024 to 1280 pixels wide, so they’ll only see a portion of the image. Yet, you still need the wider image. With wide screen monitors and resolution improvements, there are also a lot of users that see more than the 1280 pixels.

File Size

Mozilla recommends keeping Personas under 300k and we agree. Like any web content, you want your image to be a light as possible so it pulls up quickly. The detail of the image you choose can affect this. That’s why many of the popular Personas have the graphic emphasis in the upper right of the theme design and fade to a single color.

YazukaPaintTheme

https://www.getpersonas.com/en-US/persona/98983

You can also optimize file size by leveraging the multiple images supported with Enhanced Personas. Split images are less weighty than single images which slow down performance. A great way to get a fully styled background with less file weight is to use screened elements and tiled textures/partial images. Many themes offered by brands will use two anchor images, one on the right and one on the left, with a color or texture connecting the two images.

Below, is the design template Brand Thunder uses for Firefox.We give guidance for using multiple images as well as the interactive capabilities.

BrowserDimensions 

Tips & Tricks

When designing a theme, it is important to know that only certain design elements are going to be visible in the theme. A browser at 1024 pixel resolution will show far less than one expanded to 1920 pixels. In the Daytona International Speedway browser theme shown below, at the 1024 resolution the blue background color is not visible. It’s only when the browser is in extra wide resolutions that you’ll see the color. The key here is to optimize for the smaller resolutions but make sure there’s a seamless transition if a user is at a very wide resolution.

Daytona-Theme

Logo Size and Transparency

Keeping a logo on a transparent background will help ensure integrity with the rest of the design allowing it to meld with the background color or image that rounds out the design. Logos with a box or on a rectangle of color create a hard edge that makes the theme look unfinished.

Logos also work better when they are square shaped. Stay away from rectangles and wide images as the logo placement pushes the browser navigation to the right. Moving the browser navigation can be unsettling to users, so you want to keep this to a minimum. Look at the example of the College Humor theme below.

College Humor’s original browser theme used their wide logo. The most recent theme design for College Humor has a square logo that makes use of the space more wisely. There are less alignment complications throughout the browser.

CollegeHumor-Theme

 Keep Browser Buttons and New Tabs Legible

It’s tempting to build a beautifully designed and intricately detailed browser theme. This can, however, work against you. With all the text and small icons used in a browser, you can create a reading nightmare if your theme is too complex. If you’re going to use a detailed image, keep it to the far right of the browser and move quickly to a softer edge for a better backdrop for text to be read against. The Old Comic theme below is an example of a good concept gone bad in execution.

OldComicTheme

The browser theme will be utilized a great deal by the user and therefore should not be visually overpowering. The design needs to be minimal and clear, yet also bold enough to stand out from other elements within the design. There is obviously going to be a lot going on within the theme (tabs, URL bar, etc.) and the main design elements need to be strong yet subtle. Design should not too visually complicated for the user. Even the Buffalo Bills theme shown below maintains a style and energy, the color and intensity are consistent enough across the theme that it doesn’t interfere with usability.

BuffaloBills-Browser-Theme

http://www.buffalobills.com/fans/bills-browser.html

Build One Now

Browser design is an interesting and challenging endeavor. To get started visit the following sites and see which path you want to explore. The easiest, BT:Engage is a platform that will allow you to drag and drop images and create your own theme in a matter of minutes:

• BT:Engage: Firefox and IE theme creator
• Firefox: How to Create Your Own Persona for Firefox
• Firefox: Create and Host Your Own Personas Gallery with Personas Interactive

August 30 2011

13:00

Personas: Putting the Focus Back on the User

Personas should represent your user base (hopefully not pictured above).

In the art that user experience has become, we talk a lot about not letting our client’s personal preferences get in the way of what would be best for the user. Yet no matter how often we remind our clients and teams of this throughout the design process, we still find that users are unpredictable, and some changes need to be made post-launch to reflect how they actually use the product.

There’s no fool-proof way to avoid this problem, but I do think that we can improve our processes to be more user- and goal-based. No, I’m not talking about doing more studies with users, eye-tracking studies, or heat maps; what we need to do is bring the user into decisions we make from the beginning.

This is easier than it sounds, and a simple way to accomplish this is to incorporate personas into our work. In design circles, a persona is an archetypal representation of a user. The idea is as old as marketing, but Alan Cooper solidified the idea into a design philosophy in 1995, and designers have been using it to improve their user experience ever since.

If you’ve paid any attention to the UX community, especially in the last few years, you’ve likely heard the word “persona” tossed around a lot. From what I’ve seen, however, the number of people specializing in user-centric design who actually implement personas is pretty slim, and the number of designers who make them a pivotal part of the process is even slimmer.

So, what’s a persona?

Put simply, a persona is a representation of a client’s customer. They are fictional characters that we create, and they serve as a reminder of who our users are. Like any good fiction, a well-made persona has its own story to tell. The more believable the story, the better representation the persona is of users; the more accurate the representation, the more likely our decisions will reflect the user’s needs.

Our persona’s “story” consists of a name and photo, title, byline, and, most importantly, his goals and frustrations (or “pain points”). Our job is to meet his goals and solve his frustrations with what we’re building. Ultimately, personas help us make the user’s needs more memorable throughout the process.

Some teams may include stories and more in-depth biographical information to assist in understanding how the user might respond to certain decisions. This may make the personas more realistic, but be careful: people are not necessarily stereotypes, and we don’t want to use personas inappropriately by trying to oversimplify our target demographic users.

Case study: 3Degrees

As I write this article, the team at The Phuse is working on a cool project called 3Degrees. The purpose of the application is to allow users to tap into their existing social networks to find new people through mutual friends.

Based on our client’s research, when we began developing the application there were two basic types of people that would be using it. We worked with the client to create personas of those two users in order to help keep our development on track.

Meet Steve

This is Steve, one of our two personas.

This is one of the personas we created for the 3Degrees project; we put a face and name to our user to make the process more memorable and human.

Our next effort was to write out the goals and frustrations of our new friend. This is the real meat of the persona. By writing them out, we know what goals we have to meet and what frustrations we’re trying to solve.

We know a whole lot about The Goings-On of Steve.

For the 3Degrees project, we also decided to include narratives to make each persona a little more memorable; Keep in mind, though, that this can be tricky. Background information may lend an air of credibility to our persona, but we must be careful not to stereotype.

When do you need a persona?

Any time you’re working with user experience, you should be using personas. In most cases, though, personas are used when there is more than one type of user to keep track of. For example, when working on 3Degrees, we decided that there were two different types of users accessing the site.

Originally, the goal of the 3Degrees project was to connect people moving to different cities. Our client’s research told him that people new to an area (and looking to network online) are generally interested in one of two things: friendships or romantic relationships. Therefore, we decided on two different types of users to satisfy each of those roles: one looking for a date (Steve, above), and another who is looking friend to play tennis with (Ramona, not pictured).

We’ve seen projects with up to five personas. Some projects may have even more. Trying to remember those five user types would be pretty difficult without something to remind us constantly about them. Instead, the personas allow us to refer back to the user(s) at each step of the design process and make sure all their needs are being met.

Think of all the times you get in debates with clients or colleagues about where to place an element, how something should be styled, or whether a feature is needed. These debates can end up getting heated based on people’s egos and their personal opinions on what looks better and how something should be. Personas give us the opportunity to avoid that sort of conflict within design teams and with clients. They help mediate discussions based on the goals of the users.

Instead of saying, “I think the photos should be bigger,” we might say, “Well, Steve will likely be more interested in photos and basic information of other potential matches than how they answered specific questions.” In this way, we’ve given the decision to the user, and explained his reason for making it. Our personal opinions and egos are no longer relevant; only the user’s opinions matter.

Personas have a life too, y’know

In 2010, John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin wrote a book called The Persona Life Cycle, where the author related the creation and use of a persona to the stages in a person’s life. This is a handy way of looking at the life of a persona throughout the project and beyond. For example, there is essential research and planning that goes into their conception to ensure they are being brought into an environment that can nurture their growth. Then, throughout their adulthood, they help us make decisions and grow with the maturity of the project.

Sad zombie persona is sad.

Much like some adolescents, I think personas can feel left out as well. We may not look at them enough, or we might ignore them completely. In fact, we have to be careful, because as Tom Allison says in his UX Cafe presentation, it’s also possible to have these “zombie personas” that lie neglected around our processes. If we don’t use them, they’re no better than the ones that go wholly unrealized.

It takes a village

Now, you might be thinking “well, if I were a person in charge of designing the personas, I’d just make it agree with everything I say.” This is a problem teams suffer from. The importance of a persona is not to represent you, it’s to represent the user, whose goals and frustrations are his or her own.

User experience only works when the people that are developing the product work as a team. It’s not only the designer’s role to come up with a design that is user-focused, but the responsibility must also be taken on by the client and developers.

To paraphrase an ancient African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. In a similar vein, it takes a team to create a persona. They can’t be created by one person, otherwise they’d be too subjective. We need to have the whole team involved in the process to ensure that personal biases are kept to a minimum. It’s useful to base these personas on real users and not just ones we think might be users, therefore some field study and customer development is always important prior to the persona’s conception.

A great way to embed personas throughout the process is to have different members of the team be responsible for different personas’ goals. That way, when decisions are being made, one team member isn’t trying to figure out if the goals for five personas are being met; five people are weighing in with their thoughts about their specific personas.

Convincing people to use personas

In 2009, Frank Long conducted a study with 9 groups of students from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin that got the groups to use personas and find out how effective they were in their process of creating designs that served the users, with Neilsen’s Usability Heuristics as a base for the scores that were given.

In the study, Long found that the Beta and Gamma teams using personas scored higher on Neilsen’s list than the Alpha team that acted as a control group. In the focus group that concluded the study, group members noted that personas did help guide design decisions, and they were able to clearly recall their persona and its key bits of information.

Goals: Foster world’s sweetest mullet; develop hot lady repellent. Frustrations: Bikes with gears; rules.

While this study isn’t as detailed as some would hope it to be, it does reflect the usefulness of personas as a tool. They don’t take long to build or maintain, so there’s really no harm in taking a bit of time to put them together.

Just ask any team that has used personas in their design process; there is an important role for personas in our workflows, whether they’re 100 percent quantifiable or not.

How important is the user in your design?

We know it’s not fool-proof, but personas give us a way to manage user goals and frustrations before the application launches.

There’s a lot of debate over the need for personas in user experience, and there’s a lot of truth in statements against their use. Ultimately, however, personas are a physical representation to remind us who we’re building for, much like one would have a list to remind oneself of what to buy at the grocery store. When used appropriately, personas can be an invaluable tool in the design of important user experiences.

Once again, personas should always go hand-in-hand with real user interviews and studies, and all the other tricks of the trade that we have come to value so highly like heat maps, eye-tracking studies, and, of course, sets of proven user patterns.

It’s vital to the success of our applications to keep the design process focused on the user experience. How are you keeping the user in mind throughout your process?


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