the big persona > site personas and the dialogue process
24 Jan 2005 - 3:47pm
10 years ago
To me, the single biggest risk is surely: restricting your choices by
designing within your Big User's boundaries.
If you design for her, as an individual, do you risk making decisions
based on her existing practices, preferences, prejudices and taste,
instead of the glorious What Could Be? Personas let us make design
decisions based on real facts, while at the same time thinking beyond
discrete instances. This is crucial to join up the solid 'grounded'
foundations and the lofty celestial possibilities.
I'm interested in your suggestion of using two personas: one user, and
one stakeholder. Does this mean the stakeholder gets to be a user?
Clasically, personas are always end-users of the software, although we
use something we've been calling the "Site Persona" ('site' because it's
UxD for the web).
Here's a brief introduction:
Site Personas & the Dialogue Process
I've recently started using 'Site personas' in web site / application
design, using something I'm calling the 'Dialog(ue) process'.
I'm working out the process as I go, but here it is in rough:
1) Develop user personas.
2) Develop a site persona, which is a discrete personality (just like a
user persona), complete with name, goals, tone of voice, capabilities
and style. Note that the Site Persona's goals are derived from analysing
goals and success criteria for the application/project/client. However,
the SP embodies those goals. The SP may be modelled on a particular
professional, such as a counsellor, customer service representative,
trained facilitator, or hotel concierge.
I have a pet SP called Pierre, who's a concierge in a high-class hotel.
There are several aspects of Pierre's style that I find really useful in
designing web sites, including:
- His brevity: he only communicates the minimum information required to
communicate what needs to be communicated.
- His low demand: he only asks for the minimum of input and information;
he makes up the rest through intelligence, memory, note-taking and
- His modesty: he doesn't draw glory to himself; his satisfaction comes
solely from helping his clients achieve their goals.
- His proactivity: he's always anticipating what customers may want next
- even before they've thought of it themselves.
3) Work through scenarios of use, from entry point to success point, by
literally playing out the dialogue between a Primary/User Persona and
the Site Persona. I actually type the dialogue elements into a script,
which is a 2-column table that enables the 2 personas to take turns.
The dialogue may be composed of:
a) Things that are actually on the screen (such as information the SP
gives to the UP, or options that the UP can click or handle to give an
b) Summaries of what's on-screen, told in a dialogue style that matches
how it will be viewed
c) Mental monologue in the user persona's head
4) Review & refine, asking:
- How can the interaction be made more succinct?
- Can any dialogue be anticipated and avoided (site intelligence)?
- Is there any scope for confusion? How would the site persona help the
visitor make it through smoothly?
- What errors could possibly occur? How can the site persona best
respond, in a way that increases the visitor’s trust?
I'm finding this a really neat and elegant process, which has the added
benefits of generating starting-point copy and structuring interaction
elements in a syntactical order.
One simple example: A hotel customer has a question, and asks Pierre. If
Pierre doesn't have the answer straightaway, he makes sure he puts it to
someone who can answer it as quickly as possible, gets a response to the
client (if desired), and remembers the answer for future.
A web site analogy would be: UP has a query, and pulls up the FAQs/Q&A
page. There are just a few genuinely frequently asked questions on
there. They can't find their answer. Pierre wouldn't leave it at that,
and he wouldn't make the customer trawl through pages and pages of Q&A
to find it. So Pierre, representing the web site, takes the initiative.
On-screen, you'd get a form at the bottom of the FAQs, saying: "Did we
answer your question? If not, please let us know, and we'll get back to
you as soon as possible. If you would like an email in response, please
enter your email address." That's it, but the benefit is great. Not only
does it help the UP to continue towards a possible successful goal, but
is also helps the site to achieve its goals.
That's one of the great strengths of the dialogue process: working out
coherent ways of achieving a good balance between users' goals and the
software's goals. We're quite familiar to working out win-win solutions
through dialogue in real life, so designers already have skills to use
the dialogue process successfully. Because the site persona embodies the
goals that drive the software (there are *always* goals, and they're
just as important as users' goals, but often depend on them to succeed),
it gives a compact, memorable, identifiable way to act out interation so
that all goals can be met.
As I say, this is work in progress, but I'm getting good results in web
design at least.