Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Three Important Benefits of Personas

Another look at how personas help in design ...

"Next time you have a chance to watch someone reading a map, look for the first thing they do. They'll likely do the exact same thing everyone else does: find themselves on the map.

It doesn't matter what kind of map it is, whether it's of their neighborhood or an amusement park. They'll open the map and find something that is personally meaningful, such as their house or their favorite roller coaster.

Psychologists call this 'grounding'—the natural behavior of initially finding a known reference point in a foreign information space. Once the person has grounded themselves, they can then use the starting point to understand the rest of the space.

While grounding helps people adjust to complex situations, it can be detrimental when it happens during the design process. If, while conjuring up an interface, designers ground themselves in the design, they run the serious risk of creating an interface that only they can use.

Separating You from Your Work
Creating an interface for yourself is great if you're going to be the only user. When we decide how we'll arrange our kitchen cabinets—where the plates, glasses, pots, and pans will go—we want to put ourselves into the design. But, we don't expect other people to wander into our kitchen and start grabbing things without help.

When we're creating online interfaces, it's a whole different story. Here we're designing for others, not for ourselves. We may know too much about the layout and structure. We'll understand the relationships between various design elements ("That button is only used with this dropdown"). We are very familiar with the jargon and business rules.

Therefore, when a designer grounds themselves in their own design, they run the risk of designing an interface that only they can use. Any tools that help designers prevent the natural behavior of grounding helps them attack the design more objectively, with their target user in mind.

Benefit #1: Preventing Grounding with Personas
Benefit #2: The Oral Tradition Lives On
Benefit #3: The Role Personas Play in Role Playing"    (Continued via UIE)    [Usability Resources]

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