Book Review: The User Is Always Right

22 Sep 2007 - 9:46am
6 years ago
3 replies
1192 reads
SemanticWill
2007

The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas
for the Web<http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536>,
Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar.

This comprehensive guide approaches user experience research like never
before, and is *well-written, easy-to-read*, and *quite user friendly*. It
provides real-world examples of how user research is done in just enough
detail that it can both inform an executive of the role of usability
research as well as introduce methodology for persona creation to someone
starting out in user experience design.* *

*"**You are not the user." *

As an interaction designer and information architect for the past 12 years,
I have been most drawn towards books that go far beyond principles and
theory to ones I can actually extract from and use their contents for the
praxis of the craft, rather than just reading descriptions of a process.
This is a *great book* that is a blueprint to follow to get it right. It
defines the entire user research and persona creation process and offers
insightful case studies from successful companies that Mulder and Yaar
worked with like Vista Print.

The use of personas has become an increasingly popular technique being used
by the interaction design community to address user needs. Introduced into
the mainstream in 1999 in *The Inmates Are Running The
Asylum<http://www.amazon.com/Inmates-Are-Running-Asylum-Products/dp/0672326140/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-0082298-9929645?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190468401&sr=1-1>
*, personas have gained momentum in both the software and website
designcommunities, but still faces hurdles.
What are the benefits of personas?

A key aspect to any practitioner responsible for bringing real user centered
design to an organization's product design process, being able to evangelize
the importance of user research and persona creation is absolutely key. Many
IxDers <http://gamma.ixda.org/>on this list understand the importance of
persona creation, but lack the arguments to persuade management to both fund
user research and persona creation, and to incorporate real users into the
design process. This is where the book is particular important – selling
proper user research and persona creation to upper management constrained by
resources and deadlines. According to Mulder and Yaar, personas bring many
benefits, including these:

- Users' goals, behaviors and attitudes become a common point of focus
for the team. (They keep repeating this mantra until I found myself chanting
it in the shower)
- The team can concentrate on designing for a manageable set of
personas knowing that they represent the needs of many users.
- By always asking, "Would Will use this?" the team can avoid the trap
of building what users ask for rather than what they will actually use, or
the problem which is far more pernicious – building features that a product
champion thinks are important.
- Design efforts can be prioritized based on the personas.
- Disagreements over design decisions can be sorted out by referring
back to the personas.
- Designs can be constantly evaluated against the personas, getting
better designs into usability testing.

*What is a persona anyway??*

We should all know this, but for new people on the list, a persona is a
fictional person that the team creates to reflect what is know about one of
the key audience groups (sometimes that knowledge is gained from interviews,
focus groups, or surveys). Typically, a team creates two or more personas to
represent different user segments, while identifying a few key archetypes as
the primary personas.*

*Helpful persona profiles include demographic information, levels of
computer expertise, descriptions of the personas' needs for the particular
site in development, and the goals and tasks they would have in mind when
using the site.

The User Is Always
Right<http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536>takes
you through each step of persona creation, including tips for
conducting qualitative user research, new ways to apply quantitative
research (such as surveys) to persona creation, various methods for
generating persona segmentation, and proven techniques for making personas
realistic. You'll also learn how to use personas effectively, from directing
overall business strategy and prioritizing features and content to making
detailed decisions about information architecture, content, and design.
What characteristics are included in a persona?

Some of the information Mulder and Yaar say a persona usually includes:

- a name and picture
- demographics (age, education, ethnicity, family status)
- job title and major responsibilities
- goals and tasks in relation to your product/web site/application
- environment (physical, social, technological)
- a quote that sums up what matters most to the persona with relevance
for your site
- A narrative that brings the persona to life

The User Is Always
Right<http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536>is
an entertaining and clearly written book that is also filled with
great
insight into the process, both qualitative, and quantitative, of creating
user personas based on real research and how that can help interaction
designers, product designers, and other user experience professionals make
more usable and useful software. There are also extensive samples and
examples throughout the book of real personas, actual user research data,
and analysis spreadsheets. These give a very clear idea of how the
recommended approaches work in practice.

For the first time (as far as I'm aware), this brings together two very
different approaches: qualitative research based on interviews and
observation; and quantitative research based on surveys and usage data. The
authors' overall methodology provides real answers on when to use field
research, when to conduct surveys, and how to combine the two sets of
results. The end product are personas that have much greater rigueur and
impact.

*What's in the book:*

*Part 1: Introducing Personas*
Chapter 1. Putting the User Back in User-Centered Design
Chapter 2. Meet the Personas
*Part 2: Creating Personas*
Chapter 3. Approaches to Creating Personas
Chapter 4. Conducting Qualitative User Research
Chapter 5. Conducting Quantitative User Research
Chapter 6. Generating Persona Segmentation
Chapter 7. Making Personas Real
*Part 3: Using Personas*
Chapter 8. Keeping Personas Alive
Chapter 9. Directing Business Strategy
Chapter 10. Scoping Features and Functionality
Chapter 11. Guiding Structure, Content, and Design
Chapter 12. Measuring Success

In summary, this is a must-have book for people on the IxDA
<http://gamma.ixda.org/>list tackling the design of complex sites,
applications or devices, or for user-centered designers seeking more
rigorous methodologies when creating personas. I cannot recommend this book
too highly. Once you have finished this book; have a little user research
and persona creation under your belt – you are ready for Mike Kunievsky's
brilliant tomb: Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to
User Research<http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1558609237/qid=1153247574/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&v=glance&n=283155>.
I will write a book review of this in the coming months for the
IxDA<http://gamma.ixda.org/>,
so that while we all focus on going out and actually working our craft, we
do so in the context of, as Dave Malouf says, our Community of Practice.

*About the authors:*

*Steve Mulder* is principal consultant at Molecular, an Internet consulting
firm in Boston, and an internationally known speaker recognized for his work
with personas. He's a user experience expert who practices what he preaches,
with over ten years of experience in user research, information
architecture, interaction design, and usability. Learn more at
MulderMedia.com <http://www.muldermedia.com/>.

*Ziv Yaar* is the vice president of Internet strategy at Molecular, where he
has spent over ten years helping companies develop technology and business
strategies and has been at the forefront of merging the power of marketing
analytics with personas.

--
~ will

-------------------------------------
n: will evans
t: user experience architect
e: wkevans4 at gmail.com

-------------------------------------

Comments

22 Sep 2007 - 10:01am
SemanticWill
2007

For some random reason - the links to the book don't work - something
about the way the email was parsed and then posted to the discussion
list. I am really sorry - here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the improved ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=20748

22 Sep 2007 - 12:36pm
Cwodtke
2004

Also see the interview with Steve on Boxes and Arrows, complete with excerpt
http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/long-live-the-user
and the review

W Evans wrote:
> The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas
> for the Web<http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536>,
> Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar.
>
> This comprehensive guide approaches user experience research like never
> before, and is *well-written, easy-to-read*, and *quite user friendly*. It
> provides real-world examples of how user research is done in just enough
> detail that it can both inform an executive of the role of usability
> research as well as introduce methodology for persona creation to someone
> starting out in user experience design.* *
>
> *"**You are not the user." *
>
> As an interaction designer and information architect for the past 12 years,
> I have been most drawn towards books that go far beyond principles and
> theory to ones I can actually extract from and use their contents for the
> praxis of the craft, rather than just reading descriptions of a process.
> This is a *great book* that is a blueprint to follow to get it right. It
> defines the entire user research and persona creation process and offers
> insightful case studies from successful companies that Mulder and Yaar
> worked with like Vista Print.
>
> The use of personas has become an increasingly popular technique being used
> by the interaction design community to address user needs. Introduced into
> the mainstream in 1999 in *The Inmates Are Running The
> Asylum<http://www.amazon.com/Inmates-Are-Running-Asylum-Products/dp/0672326140/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-0082298-9929645?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190468401&sr=1-1>
> *, personas have gained momentum in both the software and website
> designcommunities, but still faces hurdles.
> What are the benefits of personas?
>
> A key aspect to any practitioner responsible for bringing real user centered
> design to an organization's product design process, being able to evangelize
> the importance of user research and persona creation is absolutely key. Many
> IxDers <http://gamma.ixda.org/>on this list understand the importance of
> persona creation, but lack the arguments to persuade management to both fund
> user research and persona creation, and to incorporate real users into the
> design process. This is where the book is particular important – selling
> proper user research and persona creation to upper management constrained by
> resources and deadlines. According to Mulder and Yaar, personas bring many
> benefits, including these:
>
> - Users' goals, behaviors and attitudes become a common point of focus
> for the team. (They keep repeating this mantra until I found myself chanting
> it in the shower)
> - The team can concentrate on designing for a manageable set of
> personas knowing that they represent the needs of many users.
> - By always asking, "Would Will use this?" the team can avoid the trap
> of building what users ask for rather than what they will actually use, or
> the problem which is far more pernicious – building features that a product
> champion thinks are important.
> - Design efforts can be prioritized based on the personas.
> - Disagreements over design decisions can be sorted out by referring
> back to the personas.
> - Designs can be constantly evaluated against the personas, getting
> better designs into usability testing.
>
> *What is a persona anyway??*
>
> We should all know this, but for new people on the list, a persona is a
> fictional person that the team creates to reflect what is know about one of
> the key audience groups (sometimes that knowledge is gained from interviews,
> focus groups, or surveys). Typically, a team creates two or more personas to
> represent different user segments, while identifying a few key archetypes as
> the primary personas.*
>
> *Helpful persona profiles include demographic information, levels of
> computer expertise, descriptions of the personas' needs for the particular
> site in development, and the goals and tasks they would have in mind when
> using the site.
>
> The User Is Always
> Right<http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536>takes
> you through each step of persona creation, including tips for
> conducting qualitative user research, new ways to apply quantitative
> research (such as surveys) to persona creation, various methods for
> generating persona segmentation, and proven techniques for making personas
> realistic. You'll also learn how to use personas effectively, from directing
> overall business strategy and prioritizing features and content to making
> detailed decisions about information architecture, content, and design.
> What characteristics are included in a persona?
>
> Some of the information Mulder and Yaar say a persona usually includes:
>
> - a name and picture
> - demographics (age, education, ethnicity, family status)
> - job title and major responsibilities
> - goals and tasks in relation to your product/web site/application
> - environment (physical, social, technological)
> - a quote that sums up what matters most to the persona with relevance
> for your site
> - A narrative that brings the persona to life
>
> The User Is Always
> Right<http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536>is
> an entertaining and clearly written book that is also filled with
> great
> insight into the process, both qualitative, and quantitative, of creating
> user personas based on real research and how that can help interaction
> designers, product designers, and other user experience professionals make
> more usable and useful software. There are also extensive samples and
> examples throughout the book of real personas, actual user research data,
> and analysis spreadsheets. These give a very clear idea of how the
> recommended approaches work in practice.
>
> For the first time (as far as I'm aware), this brings together two very
> different approaches: qualitative research based on interviews and
> observation; and quantitative research based on surveys and usage data. The
> authors' overall methodology provides real answers on when to use field
> research, when to conduct surveys, and how to combine the two sets of
> results. The end product are personas that have much greater rigueur and
> impact.
>
> *What's in the book:*
>
> *Part 1: Introducing Personas*
> Chapter 1. Putting the User Back in User-Centered Design
> Chapter 2. Meet the Personas
> *Part 2: Creating Personas*
> Chapter 3. Approaches to Creating Personas
> Chapter 4. Conducting Qualitative User Research
> Chapter 5. Conducting Quantitative User Research
> Chapter 6. Generating Persona Segmentation
> Chapter 7. Making Personas Real
> *Part 3: Using Personas*
> Chapter 8. Keeping Personas Alive
> Chapter 9. Directing Business Strategy
> Chapter 10. Scoping Features and Functionality
> Chapter 11. Guiding Structure, Content, and Design
> Chapter 12. Measuring Success
>
> In summary, this is a must-have book for people on the IxDA
> <http://gamma.ixda.org/>list tackling the design of complex sites,
> applications or devices, or for user-centered designers seeking more
> rigorous methodologies when creating personas. I cannot recommend this book
> too highly. Once you have finished this book; have a little user research
> and persona creation under your belt – you are ready for Mike Kunievsky's
> brilliant tomb: Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to
> User Research<http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1558609237/qid=1153247574/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&v=glance&n=283155>.
> I will write a book review of this in the coming months for the
> IxDA<http://gamma.ixda.org/>,
> so that while we all focus on going out and actually working our craft, we
> do so in the context of, as Dave Malouf says, our Community of Practice.
>
> *About the authors:*
>
> *Steve Mulder* is principal consultant at Molecular, an Internet consulting
> firm in Boston, and an internationally known speaker recognized for his work
> with personas. He's a user experience expert who practices what he preaches,
> with over ten years of experience in user research, information
> architecture, interaction design, and usability. Learn more at
> MulderMedia.com <http://www.muldermedia.com/>.
>
> *Ziv Yaar* is the vice president of Internet strategy at Molecular, where he
> has spent over ten years helping companies develop technology and business
> strategies and has been at the forefront of merging the power of marketing
> analytics with personas.
>
>
>

--
Christina Wodtke
Principal Instigator
415-577-2550

Business :: http://www.cucinamedia.com
Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
Product :: http://www.publicsquarehq.com
Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com

cwodtke at eleganthack.com

22 Sep 2007 - 1:56pm
SemanticWill
2007

Chrsitina - I would love to have it republished to B&A. It was written to
the IxDA list - but I can do some edits (I make references to IxDA people),
and polish it a little and have it to you this evening. I like the quality
of the content of B&A, and want to the article to be up to snuff.

On 9/22/07, Christina Wodtke <cwodtke at eleganthack.com> wrote:
>
> Also see the interview with Steve on Boxes and Arrows, complete with
> excerpt
> http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/long-live-the-user
> and the review
>
> W Evans wrote:
> > The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using
> Personas
> > for the Web<
> http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536>,
> > Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar.
> >
> > This comprehensive guide approaches user experience research like never
> > before, and is *well-written, easy-to-read*, and *quite user friendly*.
> It
> > provides real-world examples of how user research is done in just enough
> > detail that it can both inform an executive of the role of usability
> > research as well as introduce methodology for persona creation to
> someone
> > starting out in user experience design.* *
> >
> > *"**You are not the user." *
> >
> > As an interaction designer and information architect for the past 12
> years,
> > I have been most drawn towards books that go far beyond principles and
> > theory to ones I can actually extract from and use their contents for
> the
> > praxis of the craft, rather than just reading descriptions of a process.
> > This is a *great book* that is a blueprint to follow to get it right. It
> > defines the entire user research and persona creation process and offers
> > insightful case studies from successful companies that Mulder and Yaar
> > worked with like Vista Print.
> >
> > The use of personas has become an increasingly popular technique being
> used
> > by the interaction design community to address user needs. Introduced
> into
> > the mainstream in 1999 in *The Inmates Are Running The
> > Asylum<
> http://www.amazon.com/Inmates-Are-Running-Asylum-Products/dp/0672326140/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-0082298-9929645?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190468401&sr=1-1
> >
> > *, personas have gained momentum in both the software and website
> > designcommunities, but still faces hurdles.
> > What are the benefits of personas?
> >
> > A key aspect to any practitioner responsible for bringing real user
> centered
> > design to an organization's product design process, being able to
> evangelize
> > the importance of user research and persona creation is absolutely key.
> Many
> > IxDers <http://gamma.ixda.org/>on this list understand the importance of
> > persona creation, but lack the arguments to persuade management to both
> fund
> > user research and persona creation, and to incorporate real users into
> the
> > design process. This is where the book is particular important – selling
> > proper user research and persona creation to upper management
> constrained by
> > resources and deadlines. According to Mulder and Yaar, personas bring
> many
> > benefits, including these:
> >
> > - Users' goals, behaviors and attitudes become a common point of
> focus
> > for the team. (They keep repeating this mantra until I found myself
> chanting
> > it in the shower)
> > - The team can concentrate on designing for a manageable set of
> > personas knowing that they represent the needs of many users.
> > - By always asking, "Would Will use this?" the team can avoid the
> trap
> > of building what users ask for rather than what they will actually
> use, or
> > the problem which is far more pernicious – building features that a
> product
> > champion thinks are important.
> > - Design efforts can be prioritized based on the personas.
> > - Disagreements over design decisions can be sorted out by referring
> > back to the personas.
> > - Designs can be constantly evaluated against the personas, getting
> > better designs into usability testing.
> >
> > *What is a persona anyway??*
> >
> > We should all know this, but for new people on the list, a persona is a
> > fictional person that the team creates to reflect what is know about one
> of
> > the key audience groups (sometimes that knowledge is gained from
> interviews,
> > focus groups, or surveys). Typically, a team creates two or more
> personas to
> > represent different user segments, while identifying a few key
> archetypes as
> > the primary personas.*
> >
> > *Helpful persona profiles include demographic information, levels of
> > computer expertise, descriptions of the personas' needs for the
> particular
> > site in development, and the goals and tasks they would have in mind
> when
> > using the site.
> >
> > The User Is Always
> > Right<
> http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536
> >takes
> > you through each step of persona creation, including tips for
> > conducting qualitative user research, new ways to apply quantitative
> > research (such as surveys) to persona creation, various methods for
> > generating persona segmentation, and proven techniques for making
> personas
> > realistic. You'll also learn how to use personas effectively, from
> directing
> > overall business strategy and prioritizing features and content to
> making
> > detailed decisions about information architecture, content, and design.
> > What characteristics are included in a persona?
> >
> > Some of the information Mulder and Yaar say a persona usually includes:
> >
> > - a name and picture
> > - demographics (age, education, ethnicity, family status)
> > - job title and major responsibilities
> > - goals and tasks in relation to your product/web site/application
> > - environment (physical, social, technological)
> > - a quote that sums up what matters most to the persona with
> relevance
> > for your site
> > - A narrative that brings the persona to life
> >
> > The User Is Always
> > Right<
> http://www.amazon.com/User-Always-Right-Practical-Creating/dp/0321434536
> >is
> > an entertaining and clearly written book that is also filled with
> > great
> > insight into the process, both qualitative, and quantitative, of
> creating
> > user personas based on real research and how that can help interaction
> > designers, product designers, and other user experience professionals
> make
> > more usable and useful software. There are also extensive samples and
> > examples throughout the book of real personas, actual user research
> data,
> > and analysis spreadsheets. These give a very clear idea of how the
> > recommended approaches work in practice.
> >
> > For the first time (as far as I'm aware), this brings together two very
> > different approaches: qualitative research based on interviews and
> > observation; and quantitative research based on surveys and usage data.
> The
> > authors' overall methodology provides real answers on when to use field
> > research, when to conduct surveys, and how to combine the two sets of
> > results. The end product are personas that have much greater rigueur and
> > impact.
> >
> > *What's in the book:*
> >
> > *Part 1: Introducing Personas*
> > Chapter 1. Putting the User Back in User-Centered Design
> > Chapter 2. Meet the Personas
> > *Part 2: Creating Personas*
> > Chapter 3. Approaches to Creating Personas
> > Chapter 4. Conducting Qualitative User Research
> > Chapter 5. Conducting Quantitative User Research
> > Chapter 6. Generating Persona Segmentation
> > Chapter 7. Making Personas Real
> > *Part 3: Using Personas*
> > Chapter 8. Keeping Personas Alive
> > Chapter 9. Directing Business Strategy
> > Chapter 10. Scoping Features and Functionality
> > Chapter 11. Guiding Structure, Content, and Design
> > Chapter 12. Measuring Success
> >
> > In summary, this is a must-have book for people on the IxDA
> > <http://gamma.ixda.org/>list tackling the design of complex sites,
> > applications or devices, or for user-centered designers seeking more
> > rigorous methodologies when creating personas. I cannot recommend this
> book
> > too highly. Once you have finished this book; have a little user
> research
> > and persona creation under your belt – you are ready for Mike
> Kunievsky's
> > brilliant tomb: Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to
> > User Research<
> http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1558609237/qid=1153247574/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&v=glance&n=283155
> >.
> > I will write a book review of this in the coming months for the
> > IxDA<http://gamma.ixda.org/>,
> > so that while we all focus on going out and actually working our craft,
> we
> > do so in the context of, as Dave Malouf says, our Community of Practice.
> >
> > *About the authors:*
> >
> > *Steve Mulder* is principal consultant at Molecular, an Internet
> consulting
> > firm in Boston, and an internationally known speaker recognized for his
> work
> > with personas. He's a user experience expert who practices what he
> preaches,
> > with over ten years of experience in user research, information
> > architecture, interaction design, and usability. Learn more at
> > MulderMedia.com <http://www.muldermedia.com/>.
> >
> > *Ziv Yaar* is the vice president of Internet strategy at Molecular,
> where he
> > has spent over ten years helping companies develop technology and
> business
> > strategies and has been at the forefront of merging the power of
> marketing
> > analytics with personas.
> >
> >
> >
>
> --
> Christina Wodtke
> Principal Instigator
> 415-577-2550
>
>
> Business :: http://www.cucinamedia.com
> Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
> Product :: http://www.publicsquarehq.com
> Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
> Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com
>
> cwodtke at eleganthack.com
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
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> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
~ we

-------------------------------------
n: will evans
t: user experience architect
e: wkevans4 at gmail.com

-------------------------------------

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