Friday, March 07, 2008

Personas: Good Enough for Moses, Good Enough for Me

A persona analogy ...

"Summary: Applying Passover seder’s parable of the four children to the design technique of creating personas. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

About 20 years ago, my sister and I wrote our own Haggadah, the book used during the Passover seder. The Haggadah tells the story of Passover, the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt, and provides an order (which is what “seder” means) for performing the holiday rituals. Lisa and I, fed up with the Brown family practice of skipping around to hit the important parts and keep things to a length suitable for my dad’s attention span, decided to put our own together. This may seem sacreligious but, frankly, telling the Exodus story in a meaningful and personal way is what Passover is all about.

The seder is filled with symbolism and Lisa and I sought to take advantage of that, by showing how the symbols of Passover are embedded in the story itself. At the time, though, we were teenagers and couldn’t appreciate the larger issues (oppression and liberation) and see how they might be translated to a variety of symbols.

One of the things that we left out of our Haggadah was the four children. (This was either an oversight or an artifact of our own interpretation of what was important.) The number four appears throughout the Passover seder (four questions, four cups of wine) and perhaps represents the four stages of liberation. Since Passover is all about teaching our children about the Jewish liberation, the seder includes descriptions of four types of children who might be present at the meal and the questions they might ask:

* The wise child wants to know about the meaning behind the story.
* The wicked child wants to know why he or she should care about the story.
* The simple child asks the most basic questions, but these should not be ignored or glossed-over.
* The one too young to ask needs to have the story told despite the apparent lack of interest.

I’m in the process of re-writing our Haggadah. With Harry nearly two years old, Sarah and I are trying to create traditions for our burgeoning family. In addition, twenty years after writing our first Haggadah, I see the world differently, Judiasm differently, and interpret the story and the symbols in a new way. In my initial research, I was reminded of the four children (really “four sons”). There are many interpretations of these children, and even a little research reveals great ambiguity in what they symbolize.

To the eyes of a user experience designer, though, these children are ancient personas."    (Continued via Dan Brown's    [Usability Resources]


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