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CS408 Assignment#03 Solution & Discussion Spring 2011

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Idea ... 

Personas
To create a product that must satisfy a broad audience of users, logic tells you to make it
as broad in its functionality as possible to accommodate the most people. This logic,
however, is flawed. The best way to successfully accommodate a variety of users is to
design for specific types of individuals with specific needs.
When you broadly and arbitrarily extend a product’s functionality to include many
constituencies, you increase the cognitive load and navigational overhead for all users.
Facilities that map please some users will likely interfere with the satisfaction of other.
A simple example of how personas are useful is shown in figure below, if you try to
design an automobile that pleases every possible driver, you end up with a car with every
possible feature, but which pleases nobody. Software today is too often designed to please
to many users, resulting in low user satisfaction

Strengths of personas as a design tool
The persona is a powerful, multipurpose design tool that helps overcome several
problems that currently plague the development of digital products. Personas help
designers”
• Determine what a product should do and how it should behave. Persona goals and
tasks provide the basis for the design effort.
• Communicate with stakeholders, developers, and other designers. Personas
provide a common language for discussing design decisions, and also help keep
the design centered on users at every step in the process.
• Build consensus and commitment to the design. With a common language comes
a common understanding. Personas reduce the need for elaborate diagrammatic
models because, as it is found, it is easier to understand the many nuances of user
behavior through the narrative structures that personas employ.
• Measure the design’s effectiveness. Design choices can be tested on a persona in
the same way that they can be show to a real user during the formative process.
Although this doesn’t replace the need to test on real users. It provides a powerful
reality check tool for designers trying to solve design problems. This allows
design iteration to occur rapidly and inexpensively at the whiteboard, and it results
in a far stronger design baseline when the time comes to test with real users.
• Contribute to other product-related efforts such as marketing and sales plan. It has
been seen that clients repurpose personas across their organization, informing
marketing campaigns, organizational structure, and other strategic planning
activities. Business units outside of product development desire sophisticated
knowledge of a product’s users and typically view personas with great interest.
The use of personas as a method for communicating user requirements in collaborative design environments is well established. However, very little research has been conducted to quantify the benefits of using this technique. The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of using personas. An experiment was conducted over a period of 5 weeks using students from NCAD. The results showed that, through using personas, designs with superior usability characteristics were produced. They also indicate that using personas provides a significant advantage during the research and conceptualization stages of the design process (supporting previously unfounded claims). The study also investigated the effects of using different presentation methods to present personas and concluded that photographs worked better than illustrations, and that visual storyboards were more effective in presenting task scenarios than text only versions.
Introduction

The product development process for complex consumer products is a collaborative one. It involves multidisciplinary design teams, consisting of numerous individuals, working on different components of the design, often in geographically dispersed locations. It can be challenging to maintain a consistent user focus in such environments. User testing provides valuable design feedback, but generally this feedback arrives in the later stages of development when it is difficult to modify the design. In order to create more useable solutions, earlier user validation is required in the design process. The use of 'Personas' as a method for communicating user requirements and maintaining a consistent user focus in collaborative design efforts is becoming increasingly widespread. Personas are fictional user archetypes based on user research. Through a process of analysis and refinement, the data from user interviews is distilled into one or multiple fictitious characters. Each character is developed in realistic detail, and how that character wants to interact with the design is described as task scenarios. This Persona and their associated task scenarios form the basis for specifying how users want to experience the design. Through role-play and QA sessions using the persona, the merits of design solutions can be evaluated against the needs of the persona. Despite the growing popularity of personas, there is considerable debate as to the efficacy of the technique.
Background

There is a surprisingly little published work detailing the methodology or providing evidence of its effectiveness. At the time of writing only a few books deal with the subject in any detail. Cooper's 'The Inmates are Running the Asylum' (1999) provides a compelling business argument for using personas but offers little practical information on how to use them. 'About Face 2.0; The Essentials of Interaction Design' (Cooper and Reimann, 2003) details a more of a systematic overview of the process, strongly advocating their own trademarked design approach - Goal-Directed Design™. In 2006 Pruitt and Adlin published the most detailed volume on the subject, 'The Persona Lifecycle' – outlining and developing their interpretation of Cooper's original technique. This work focuses heavily on creation and maintenance of personas throughout the product lifecycle and includes case study references from industry. Pruitt's early background advocating and using personas in Microsoft is also documented through the short paper Personas Practice and Theory (Pruitt and Grudin, 2003). Mulder's 'The User is Always Right: a Practical Guide for Creating and Using Personas on the Web' (2007) focuses on the creation of personas and techniques for incorporating quantitative market research and other empirical data into the process. 

From a research perspective, the problem with much of what has been published is the lack of objectivity. Most have adopted an advocacy standpoint and their examples and analysis tend to evangelise the use of personas. Furthermore there are distinct differences in the way the authors advocate using the technique. There is very little objective research or insight published. Chapman and Milham (also working at Microsoft) identify this in their 2003 paper:
"There is little peer-reviewed discussion of the personas method. The most comprehensive work to date (Pruitt and Adlin, 2006) is a compiled book advocating the method. There is no literature that systematically evaluates personas' methodology or utility in a comprehensive fashion."
"There have been no adequate studies addressing the reliability, validity, or utility of the method. To rectify this, we suggest the following as potential idea sketches for future research… (point 4)Assign multiple teams to design the same product, where some teams use personas and some don't. Which teams create products that are more usable?"
(Chapman and Milham, 2003, The persona's new clothes: methodological and practical arguments against a popular method, p2-4).
Methodology

The chief aim of the study was to assess and measure the effectiveness of using personas as a design tool - heeding Chapman and Milham’s call for further research. Does using personas as a tool give designers any advantage in designing more effective and user-centred solutions? Would there be a quantifiable usability difference between the designs from the persona-based teams over ones that did not use persona? A secondary element of the research was to investigate the effect of different presentation techniques on the effectiveness of the personas. Would the use of the storyboards with illustrated user personas over the traditional method of using realistic user photographs and text-based scenarios have any significant difference on the resulting designs?
At the core of this research is a project-based experiment that was conducted with a group of 3rd year Industrial Design students from the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin. The experiment was planned as a design project conducted over a period of 5 weeks. The students were divided into 3 groups (see table 1.1). In order to ensure a 'level-playing field' the tutors were consulted to help distribute the class into groups of equal strength. Two groups used personas as a design tool and one group acted as the control group and did not use a persona-based approach. The objective of the experiment was to evaluate whether there was any difference in the usability of the final designs. The study also sought to measure how using personas influenced the design teams in their approach to solving the brief.
Groups No. of Teams Design Tools
Alpha (Control) 3 Brief & Image Boards
Beta 3 Brief & Persona (Photographic image and text-based scenario document)
Gamma 3 Brief & Persona (Illustrated image and storyboard scenario document)
Table 1.1 Groups used in the experiment and associated design tools
Personas and Scenarios
The scope of the experiment was focused on the effectiveness of using personas in the design process. It was not practical for the students to research and create personas within the project timeframe. It was also felt that using different personas would add an additional, unwanted level of variability to the experiment. Instead, a pre-prepared user persona and task scenarios were given to the students (see fig 1.0 and 2.0). The persona matched the target-user demographic outlined in the project brief and care was taken to ensure that it did not contain any information that might create an unfair advantage over the control group. The persona detailed the personal information of a fictitious character, her likes and dislikes, her home environment and her attitude towards new technology. The persona documentation included a 'day in the life' section, where the character's daily routine and how she currently uses the product was described. Finally the persona's goals were listed, as were the client's business goals (these were also contained in the project brief). Two versions of the persona's image were used; the Beta group received a photograph of a real person while the Gamma group received an illustration. Two task scenarios 'Set-up' and 'Listening to the Radio' accompanied each persona - one set was text only the other was laid out as a storyboard. (See Fig 1.0 and 2.0)

The Project
Students were briefed in separate groups. Each group was instructed not to disclose or discuss their design tool to the other groups. The Beta and Gamma students were briefed in how to use personas as were their tutors. The tutors agreed to take observational notes during the project and a questionnaire was distributed at the end of the 5 weeks for the students and tutors to complete. Finally individual focus groups were conducted among the 3 design groups and the project tutors to discuss the experience of using the personas. The Beta and Gamma groups were asked to complete a recall test to capture how much detail that they could remember about each persona
 

This is only helping material:

Cs408 3rd assignment

 

 

 

 

Personas

To create a product that must satisfy a broad audience of users, logic tells you to make it as broad in its functionality as possible to accommodate the most people. This logic, however, is flawed. The best way to successfully accommodate a variety of users is to design for specific types of individuals with specific needs.

When you broadly and arbitrarily extend a product’s functionality to include many constituencies, you increase the cognitive load and navigational overhead for all users.

Facilities that map please some users will likely interfere with the satisfaction of other.

A simple example of how personas are useful is shown in figure below, if you try to design an automobile that pleases every possible driver, you end up with a car with every possible feature, but which pleases nobody. Software today is too often designed to please to many users, resulting in low user satisfaction

Personas were introduced as a tool for user modeling, they have gained great popularity

in the usability community, but they have also been the subjects of some misunderstandings.

 

 

But by designing different cars for different people with different specific goals, as shown in figure below, we are able to create designs that other people with similar needs to our target drivers also find satisfying. The same hold true for the design of digital products and software.

The key is in choosing the right individuals to design for, ones whose needs represent the needs of a larger set of key constituents, and knowing how to prioritize design elements to address the needs of the most important users without significantly inconveniencing secondary users. Personas provide a powerful tool for understanding user needs, differentiating between different types of users, and prioritizing which users are the most important to target in the design of function and behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strengths of personas as a design tool

The persona is a powerful, multipurpose design tool that helps overcome several problems that currently plague the development of digital products. Personas help designers”

  • • Determine what a product should do and how it should behave. Persona goals and tasks provide the basis for the design effort.
  • • Communicate with stakeholders, developers, and other designers. Personas provide a common language for discussing design decisions, and also help keep the design centered on users at every step in the process.
  • • Build consensus and commitment to the design. With a common language comes a common understanding. Personas reduce the need for elaborate diagrammatic models because, as it is found, it is easier to understand the many nuances of user behavior through the narrative structures that personas employ.
  • • Measure the design’s effectiveness. Design choices can be tested on a persona in the same way that they can be show to a real user during the formative process. Although this doesn’t replace the need to test on real users. It provides a powerful reality check tool for designers trying to solve design problems. This allows design iteration to occur rapidly and inexpensively at the whiteboard, and it results in a far stronger design baseline when the time comes to test with real users.
  • • Contribute to other product-related efforts such as marketing and sales plan. It has been seen that clients repurpose personas across their organization, informing marketing campaigns, organizational structure, and other strategic planning activities. Business units outside of product development desire sophisticated

knowledge of a product’s users and typically view personas with great interest.

 

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