The Persona Touch

I buy into the concept of usability..I mean who doesn’t these days to some extent.  I budget for usability work on every web project I work on – big and small…for years I was a devout follower in the Cult of Jakob (though I think he has lost touch with the real world these days..)  I love being behind the two-way mirror at user tests and watching the eye-tracking tools do there thang…I am a believer…except…I just don’t get the concept of personas something about it all just makes me think of slick-suited ad-men rather than the t-shirts and trainers world of the web!

I don’t care if my users eat organic food, watches Newsnight and read Guns’n’Ammo – honestly how does it help? Maybe in an e-commerce environment but we don’t sell stuff – its all free (well if you take out the whole taxpayer issue!)..

BUT (and its a J-Lo sized butt!)

I do need to understand more about the audience of the JISC website.  Who uses it, why they use it, how they use it… we regularly get requests to build in paths through the site based on audiences or tasks..the problem is that despite all our stats [and thanks to Kerry we have mountains of data these days] we still don’t really understand our audience(s) and are probably going for a one-size fits all technique that isn’t really comfortable for anyone..

So will personas help?  I’m still not convinced but need to try something – if it could be a bit more focussed – less of the fluffy marketing babble and more analysis then maybe..I want to know if we have gaps in our content and if so what are they and I really want to know if we are just in one big echo chamber at the moment – JISC folk talking to JISC folk – because if thats the case then we took a misstep somewhere (and I think big parts of it is and we have)

Anyway one way or another I am going to look into audience research in the coming months – maybe someone can convince me of the worth of personas or point me at a technique that fits better with my mind-set…we’ll see.

1 comment

  1. Hey Matt, to your point: “I don’t care if my users eat organic food, watches Newsnight and read Guns’n’Ammo – honestly how does it help?” Trust your instincts here: it doesn’t help. Personas SHOULD be *behavioral* models, conveying information that’s actually useful in design. When you encounter crappy personas such as what you’ve described, chances are good that someone decided they would “try this persona thing” and then embarked on a short journey of creative writing. Personas are simply one way of packaging up and communicating insights learned from user research. Without that research, they’re typically not too helpful. To learn about the sort of impact that personas can in fact have, check out this example.

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