Personas: A Story of Insight and Improvement
An application aimed at energy workers was being built by contract developers who hadn’t ever been to the field.
Personas allowed us to show the developers that their target users:
- were risk-averse, so change had to be introduced carefully
- had very unreliable Internet connections, so needed small, efficient server calls
- preferred their mobile devices to their laptops for most of the day, so the mobile interface was likely to be the most used.
- didn’t have the the big secondary monitors for their laptops that the developers had, so their tolerance for intricate screens and small text was lower
The personas opened the team up to a different and more user-centered interface direction. They stopped creating the tool they wanted to build, and started creating the tool their audience would want to use.
By coming into a user’s setting and observing their everyday actions, a company can learn not only how current products are being used, but the gaps that can be filled by future products. Ideally, a study involves several different users and settings, to get a range of insights that can be pulled into requirements or marketing documentation. The idea is to observe the entire context of the user, so that the use or non-use of a product can be understood as part of a larger whole.
Personas are representatives of users. They are based on information gathered from marketing surveys, customer service representatives, sales people, ethnographic studies, and any other contacts with customers. We use a proprietary process of team meetings and exercises to complete and prioritize these personas, rounding the key personas out with details about their appearance, priorities, and lifestyle.