Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

A good book on personas ...

"I’ve used personas for years (though some might regard my process as a slightly heretical perversion of the method). I always think about the big picture, and I was just thinking BIG about personas at work when The Persona Lifecycle landed on my desk.

I’d recently redone the standard review of persona articles on the web. I breezed back over the chapters in About Face 2.0 and Christina Wodtke’s Blueprints for the Web. A colleague even loaned me Steve Mulder’s new book, The User is Always Right, which I kind of thumbed through.

Given my review of what’s out there, The Persona Lifecycle is the most comprehensive book on personas I’ve come across. If you’re so inclined, it can taking you from novice to expert. The authors, Jonathan Pruit and Tamara Adlin, take advantage of extensive teaching experience and punctuate their discussion with lots of real-world examples, case studies, anecdotes, bright ideas and handy guidelines.

That being said, it’s not an easy read, and it’s not for everybody.

Persona school

Pruit and Adlin use the lifecycle as a metaphor to frame the different stages personas go through, from birth to retirement. To highlight their process, a fictional case study runs throughout the book tying everything together. Because design doesn’t happen in a vacuum, the authors talk about how to ease the adoption and communication of personas at different levels of your organization. In fact, the book covers the two most important facets of personas: making them and getting them used.

Overall, the book is very rigorous and thorough. Chapter one is the best overview and history of, introduction to, and case for personas I’ve ever seen; it should be required reading for everyone.

Though the writing aims at being straightforward, the authors tend towards the academic. That is, they use big words to make things clear. Pruit and Adlin developed the lifecycle as a way to teach personas, and at some point in chapter two, my hazy school days came flooding back to me: The Persona Lifecycle is a textbook.

Information overload

Todd Warfel was disappointed with the book. Todd’s a smart guy: passionate, extremely knowledgeable, creative and driven to perfect his UX game. Like a kid waiting for Christmas, he eagerly awaited for his copy to arrive. When someone like Warfel says they didn’t like the book, it should make you wonder.

In Warfel’s words, the authors included everything but the kitchen sink. Don Norman’s cover blurb hints in a similar fashion: ”–it truly is for everyone: the practitioner, the researcher, and the teacher.” Warfel and Norman are right. The book has everything. It’s like reading an encyclopedia, and after a short while, the stories, guidelines and examples start to blur together.

Doesn’t work as a reference

I was torn between reading the book cover-to-cover and flipping to the sections where I needed some perspective for my current project.

As a flip-through reference, the PLC is hit and miss. There’s no comprehensive table of contents, and it’d be great if there was some sort of index for the numerous stories from the field. I’d like to reference a couple, but I can’t remember where I read them or who wrote them. Similarly, many of their useful broad guidelines are lost to time and the pages of the book, because I can’t find them on a second pass."    (Continued via Boxes and Arrows)    [Usability Resources]

The Persona Lifecycle : Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design

Recommended Book

Check-out more books at Usernomics.


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