Friday, September 07, 2007

Making Personas Work for Your Web Site: An Interview with Steve Mulder

Implementing personas for your site ...

"Steve Mulder is Principal Consultant in the User Experience group at Molecular, an Internet consulting firm in Boston, and author of the book, The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web. UIE's Jared M. Spool recently had the chance to talk with Steve after his UIE Virtual Seminar, The User is Always Right: Making Personas Work for Your Web Site, to answer some additional questions about personas.

UIE: Is there specific training design team members need to create personas?

Steve: It's important for the people responsible for creating the personas to have active listening skills, empathy, and clear communication skills. Ultimately, what design teams need to do is aggregate all of the qualitative or quantitative data into a clearly communicated story. This means that writing and communication skills are also critical. From the point of view of a more tactical skillset, the design team will get better results if they have experience conducting interviews and writing surveys.

If you want to incorporate more quantitative data into creating personas, it's helpful to find a statistical analyst to assist in cluster analysis for segmentation. But at the very basic level, it's the softer skills that are most important, such as listening to people and thinking outside existing assumptions.

UIE: How do you determine how a persona will interact with a web site or design when the personality type of a persona is drastically different from the people designing the product?

Steve: The most powerful way of determining how a persona will interact with a design is actually talking to users and not just imagining how a user would interact with the product.

When design teams talk to people that fall into the persona group, they understand the needs of the people represented by the persona, how they use the site, and what they expect from interacting with the design. Then, based on the responses from the user interviews, design teams can determine what this persona would do in certain situations.

The main thing a persona allows designs teams to do is to think outside themselves and really get an understanding of who it is they are designing for. When design teams build a persona, they write a story about a character that represents a whole type of user that is fundamentally different from themselves. They put themselves in the shoes of their users and think about how the persona would interact with a web site or design.

The hardest thing for designers to keep in mind is that they are not designing for themselves. They are designing for the needs of the people who will actually be using the product. Personas are one of the most powerful tools for helping designers keep users in mind."    (Continued via UIE)    [Usability Resources]

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