Posted by: bbannan | March 24, 2009

Personas-Profiles and pre-development research – Marc

User profiles and personas (referenced in Chapter 7, Kuniavsky) were always interesting to me (having been in advertising and had the experience of designing tailored messages to a target audience).

How useful have personas or user profiles been to you, either in this course or in a position at work? Consider the following resources:

The first resource is a .pdf authored by two professionals from the Usability Professionals Association, the second is a link to an article by Senior Information Architect Andrew Hilton.

Reflecting on this topic reminds me of a specific situation at work where I needed to collaborate with our IT team to help develop an application interface for our users. Unfortunately, due to cost/time/personnel limitations, we weren’t able to collect extensive information on the user’s lifestyle, needs, and usage trends, etc. but were able to identify the following characteristics before development began:

• Some demographic/geographic location and environment information data – users were spread out over a distance and relied on somewhat different processing requests, so the application had to consider global and local needs
• Some specifics on user needs/wants, but this information changed/evolved over time
• Only minimal data on usage trends, with the potential of collecting additional information through surveys, etc. in the future

As a result, we had to go back and adjust/tweak different aspects of the user interface based on trial and error. Have you experienced similar situations where you needed to design training or software for users and did not have the necessary time, etc. to conduct thorough pre-development research? If so, what happened? Lately it seems even more important to obtain this information accurately and correctly the first time due to shrinking budgets (especially within the government).

Finally, have you ever needed to adjust your user profiles or personas due to internal/external circumstances, and how did those changes affect your training design?



  1. Personas have proved to be very useful, they emerge from target audience research and feel familiar and friendly. Our Generation Nexter personas have been remarkably accurate and very useful. Many persona characteristics ring true in the subjects we have worked with in our user groups.

    However there are always surprises. Pleasant surprises when research findings are confirmed such as recognition of the “share icon” and methods of moving information. Other surprises when something such as affinity for video/audio content when available as superior to text as well.

    Working without personas leads probably to flawed design, and at times it cannot be helped. But this I consider to be part of framing the problem, getting to understanding. Get this part right, take more time here and the rest of the process can proceed quicker and with a better outcome. Hank

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