I haven’t written for ages, and this is because I have been in ‘persona-land’ as someone put it the other day.
Persona land is a beautiful place with many meaty challenges to get your teeth into. I love planning big websites (I wrote about doing the planning for Highlands and Islands Enterprise here) and I am currently working on a really big, exciting, challenging project that involves lots of personas, user journeys and lots of questions about where things go, what functionality is needed, and what approach should be taken with content.
Persona land is a bit more than personas but they are absolutely crucial to it – what is a country without its inhabitants? I like to create draft personas of pretty much every major type of user, think about their needs and goals, and think about the client’s needs and goals for them. Then it’s a case of grouping them and understanding which user journeys are to be taken and drawing some sketchy sitemaps and sometimes wireframes.
Making up personas is a strange business. You are creating works of fiction about reality. You are trying to put yourself in the shoes of lots of different kinds of people, and then thinking about what they have and don’t have in common.
Sometimes I spend quite a long time thinking about what their name should be or finding a picture of them, but I think this is a form of procrastination to do whilst some other part of my brain is processing all the information. It’s also due to the fact that it is sometimes very difficult to find photos – I pretty much leave stock photography alone and use google, but now that searches all the stock photos on your behalf, which is not what I want at all!
When I create personas I then have to share them with the team and with stakeholders. This is sometimes a bit like standing up in front of class to read a creative writing exercise. However, it’s essential to do this to get feedback – often there are needs and goals you have missed, or you become aware of the need for an additional persona type.
The main thing to do in this process is to not forget about the business problem that you are trying to solve. It’s not all about meeting user needs. You must ask why a new website is required, what the objectives are in terms of communications and commerce. It’s a case of balancing all this and doing the thinking up front and then testing, testing, testing as you go…
I have to go but here are a few articles on user experience and planning which I thought were quite useful.