5: Modeling Users: Personas and Goals in Java

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5: Modeling Users: Personas and Goals
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To create a product that must satisfy a diverse audience of users, logic might tell you to make it as broad in its functionality as possible to accommodate the most people. This logic, however, is flawed. The best way to successfully accommodate a variety of users is to design for specific types of individuals with specific needs. When you broadly and arbitrarily extend a product s functionality to include many constituencies, you increase the cognitive load and navigational overhead for all users. Facilities that may please some users will likely interfere with the satisfaction of others (see Figure 5-1).
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Figure 5-1 A simplified example of how personas are useful. If you try to design an automobile that pleases every possible driver, you end up with a car with every possible feature, but that pleases nobody. Software today is too often designed to please too many users, resulting in low user satisfaction. Figure 5-2 provides an alternative approach.
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The key to this approach is first to choose the right individuals to design for those users whose needs best represent the needs of a larger set of key constituents (see Figure 5-2) and then to prioritize these individuals so that the needs of the most important users are met without compromising our ability to meet the needs of secondary users. Personas provide a powerful tool for communicating about different types of users and their needs, then deciding which users are the most important to target in the design of form and behavior. Since they were introduced as a tool for user modeling in The Inmates are Running The Asylum,1 personas have gained great popularity in the user experience community, but they have also been the subject of some misunderstandings. We d like to clarify and explain in more depth some of the concepts and the rationale behind personas.
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Part I: Understanding Goal-Directed Design
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Alesandro s goals Go fast Have fun
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Marge s goals Be safe Be comfortable
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Dale s goals Haul big loads Be reliable
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Figure 5-2 A simplified example of how personas are useful. By designing different cars for different people with different specific goals, we are able to create designs that other people with similar needs to our target drivers also find satisfying. The same holds true for the design of digital products and software.
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Strengths of personas as a design tool
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The persona is a powerful, multipurpose design tool that helps overcome several problems that currently plague the development of digital products. Personas help designers:
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5: Modeling Users: Personas and Goals Determine what a product should do and how it should behave. Persona goals and tasks provide the foundation for the design effort. Communicate with stakeholders, developers, and other designers. Personas provide a common language for discussing design decisions and also help keep the design centered on users at every step in the process. Build consensus and commitment to the design. With a common language comes a common understanding. Personas reduce the need for elaborate diagrammatic models; it s easier to understand the many nuances of user behavior through the narrative structures that personas employ. Put simply, because personas resemble real people, they re easier to relate to than feature lists and flowcharts. Measure the design s effectiveness. Design choices can be tested on a persona in the same way that they can be shown to a real user during the formative process. Although this doesn t replace the need to test with real users, it provides a powerful reality-check tool for designers trying to solve design problems. This allows design iteration to occur rapidly and inexpensively at the whiteboard, and it results in a far stronger design baseline when the time comes to test with actual people. Contribute to other product-related efforts such as marketing and sales plans. The authors have seen their clients repurpose personas across their organization, informing marketing campaigns, organizational structure, and other strategic planning activities. Business units outside of product development desire sophisticated knowledge of a product s users and typically view personas with great interest.
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Personas also can resolve three design issues that arise during product development:
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