Defining Your Audience

Who Is This For?

How Do We Add More Rigor?

Broad concepts are great, because they help us get a clue

Are broad concepts immediately actionable?

Are broad concepts something we can repeat for multiple sites?

Personas — Alan Cooper (1999)

Our most effective tool is profoundly simple:

Develop a precise description of our user and what he wishes to accomplish.

Why Use Personas?

The goal is to make the design fit a specific user, visitor, or audience

Avoid the "elastic user" — a definition of the user that fits the design, rather than the other way around

Make sure the choices made in a design are intentional, so identify, name, and clarify a specific user

"Personas End Feature Debates" - A Bad Discussion

Programmer: "What if the user wants to print this out?"

Interaction Designer: "Rosemary isn’t interested in printing things out."

Programmer: "But someone might want to print it."

Interaction Designer: "But we are designing for Rosemary, not for Someone."

"Personas End Feature Debates" - A Better Discussion

Compare two personas:

What are the design implications of having these two users?
What are the production implications of having these two users?

Why Not Just Ask The User What They Want?

Knowing and experiencing the problem doesn't provide that person with the solution

Users are not designers

Individual skills and idiosyncrasies can lead to red-herring solutions and distract from a better one

What Makes a Persona

Not made to be a real person, but to represent a group of users

"Hypothetical archetypes"

Simplify and abstract the real users to a "reasonable approximation"

The Value of Specificity

Every time you extend the functionality to include another constituency, you put another speed bump of features and controls across every other user’s road…

Trying to please too many different points of view can kill an otherwise good product.

…The broader a target you aim for, the more certainty you have of missing the bull’s eye.

What Happens When We're Not Specific

Provide different user sets to ensure the design meets a specific audience's need

Your design can't be all things to all people, so make it the right design for your audience

An illustration of a car with a sports front, a large passenger cabin, and a truck bed, with an exaggeratedly bad design.
A car designed for all drivers, as opposed to one persona

How Specific is Specific?

We don’t just say that Emilee uses business software. We say that Emilee uses WordPerfect Version 5.1 to write letters to Gramma.

We don’t just let Emilee drive to work. We give her a dark-blue 1991 Toyota Camry, with a dray plastic kid’s seat strapped into the back and an ugly scrape on the rear bumper.

We don’t just let Emilee go to work. We give her a job as a New-Accounts Clerk in a beige cubicle at Global Airways in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Core Question For a Persona

What is their motivation?

What do they want to acheive?

Common Elements of a Persona

Name, face, demographics

General psychographics

Goals with design

Where Personas Shine

In his book, there's a case study for redesigning an in-flight entertainment system.

One persona is "Clevis," a 70-year-old executive who takes many flights. He's 70 in 1999, so he's not computer literate, has mild arthritis.

Used Clevis as who needs to have every single need met and drove decisions like how to display data and how to control computer

What's The Problem With Personas?

A great article by a researcher at the UK Ministry of Justice provides some clues

Problem 1: Where Do Personas Come From?

Often, the role of designers, away from client-facing roles, away from potential audience

Solve by doing real audience research

We said that individual real users can confound the design process, but have to base personas in something real

Problem 2: What Does It Matter That...?

Cute names & faces have their reason: to be able to reference and create a "real" user model for designers

What biases are built into demographic information? What mental shortcuts are we taking that are hiding challenges and goals?

What information that we write is really clutter and not actionable? What can we ask that really gets to goals, not characteristics?

Problem 3: What Do We Actually Do with Personas?

Cooper suggests 3-12 total personas, with maybe 3-5 active ones

In a 2021 retrospective, makes claim that Microsoft used hundreds of personas, one for each feature

Westerholm-Smyth suggests presenting not in a typical format, but with data, as "quote cards," etc. This makes them living tools and north stars for any design

Defining Your Audience's Goals: User Stories

Comes out of the Agile/Extreme Software Development Mindset

May be a sort of replacement for personas, because focused on user but doesn't require anything unrelated to project

As a identified user, I want to take a given action so that I achieve a goal