In Modeling Users: Personas to Goals by Cooper et al, the authors discuss the power of user personas as a tool in analyzing, synthesizing, and communicating research both within and beyond the design team. Personas are compared to other models such as workflow diagrams, artifact models, and physical models. Furthermore, the authors suggest a structured process through which to develop personas to ensure that personas are detailed yet synthesized and do not fall prey to pitfalls such as being illustrative of the elastic user, self-referential design, or edge cases.
Of particular interest to me in this chapter was Cooper’s relaying of Don Norman’s conception of three levels of cognitive and emotional processing relevant for designers: visceral, behavioral, and reflective. These distinctions helped me reflect on different design processes in which I’ve engaged for various projects and disciplines. For instance, I think that as a theatre director and actor, my design work focused on the visceral primarily and then behavioral. I would sometimes try to get actors and audiences to reflect on the visceral feelings and behavioral outcomes they experienced after my rehearsal and “show” designs. (I put “show” here in quotes because a show encompasses so many different designs by different players in the production process, so I could hardly say that a show’s full experiences could ever be fully and cohesively anyone’s.) Meanwhile, for instructional designs I’ve implemented as a teacher, primary foci were on behavioral and reflective outcomes. Sometimes, designs would even try to help students bypass visceral responses to dive deeper into content, or sometimes visceral responses would be purposely elicited to “hook” students into a lesson.
I feel like well-versing oneself in creating User Personas is a good way to increase one’s own empathy, because it makes you think about people in a deeper sense. You cannot look at surface level qualities, but you have to dive into what they say and what they do in order to find deeper truths about that person, truths about what drives them and motivates them. You must leave all assumptions behind and really pay attention.
After reading the first three pages of this chapter, I went out to a bar where my
roommate was DJing and I started wondering “what kind of user personas would one find in a bar?” We can look at each individual person and observe their behavior—are they dancing? Socializing with friends? Searching for strangers to flirt with? Do they even want to be there? I wonder what kind of information could be gleaned from carrying out individual conversations. Also, I was at Maker Faire on Saturday and I saw a very old man. I thought “he must be AMAZED at all of the technology here”. But if I were to use him as data for a User Persona, I would have to challenge or prove those assumptions and actually ask him some questions!
Don Norman’s three levels of emotional cognition (don’t remember the exact term…) definitely make sense to me. Visceral, behavioral, and reflective design decisions must be made for a product to be effective on multiple levels. It’s interesting that “users initially judge attractive interfaces to be more usable, and this belief often persists long after a user has gained sufficient experience with an interface to have direct evidence to the contrary”. This observation reminds me of the “Halo Effect”, which is when humans perceive attractive humans to be more capable in other areas, even when evidence and experience suggests otherwise. We really can be quite shallow animals,which makes it ever-more important to be in tune with the psychology of human perceptions. “Any product that egregiously violates experience goals will ultimately fail, regardless of how well it purports to achieve other goals.” There’s got to be a sitcom episode out there where one of the main character’s love-interest- of-the- week is the complete package…. good job, funny, intelligent, attractive…. but then they find out some sort of “deal-breaker” that violates their visceral experience. Maybe he has bad body odor or collects his nail clippings or something like that, and despite being a “full-package”, there is no longer any romantic interest for our unfortunate protagonist.
I like that the chapter goes outside of the experience, end, and life goals of the
individual user to discuss organizational goals. Often the users will be embedded within the context of an organization (a company, school, or non-profit), so it is
important to consider those goals as well. For example, as we engage in our user
studies of students at TechShop, we must place their individual goals within the context of TechShop. Speaking with Bill Gearhart, the General Manager of TechShop,was a valuable experience as now we can see the bigger picture. How will the design choices we make help TechShop retain their students and gain new customers, all the while providing a valuable educational experience? Looking only at the individual user narrows this scope and misses these valuable questions.
In Modeling Users: Personas to Goals, Cooper et al. describe the value in making personas for developing a “precise way of thinking and communicating about how groups of users behave, how they think, what they want to accomplish, and why.” I had heard the term personas used in a variety of contexts before reading this paper, and there were a lot of misconceptions I had that Cooper et al. were able to unpack. One of them was that personas were merely fabricated representations of people designers used throughout the design process. In fact, Cooper et al. goes into great detail to clarify this point stating, “Personas developed by drawing on inadequate research (or synthesized with insufficient empathy and sensitivity to interview subjects) run the risk of degrading to caricatures. Personas must be developed and treated with dignity and respect for the people they represent. If the designer doesn’t respect his persona nobody else will either.”
Cooper et al. describe the importance of defining and describing the primary user goals. This step may not be obvious, because many times users are not able to articulate their goals and motivations. Using Don Norman’s Emotional Design theory of cognitive processing goals can be broken down into three levels. The first is Experience Goals (visceral) or how the user wants to feel; the second is End goals (behavioral) or what the user wants to do, and finally there are Life goals (reflective) or who the user wants to be. The authors also state that there may be other actors and goals involved in designing products such as nonuser goals, customer goals, business or organizational goals, and technical goals, but successful products will always meet the needs of the primary user first.
The authors breakdown making personas into 8 steps. The first step is grouping interview subjects by role. This entails mapping users to specific job roles or by attitudes, approaches to relevant activities, or interests regarding lifestyle choices. The second step involves identifying behavioral variables. Cooper et al. warn the readers to not focus on demographic data, but on other variables such as activities-- what the user does, attitudes—how the user thinks about the domain, aptitudes—the training and education of the user, motivations—why the user is engaged in the product, and skill—abilities related to the product domain. The third step involves mapping interview subjects to behavioral variables, similar to comparative value dimensions, and the fourth step involves identifying behavior patterns.
The fifth step synthesizes characteristics and defines goals. This involves behaviors themselves (activities and the motivations behind them), the use environment(s), frustrations and pain points related to the behavior using current solutions, demographics associated with the behavior, skills, experience, or abilities relating to the behavior, attitudes and emotions associated with the behavior, relevant interactions with other people, products, or services, and alternate or competing ways of doing the same thing, especially analog techniques. The sixth step involves checking for redundancy, and the seventh step involves designating persona types by user type such as primary and secondary users. The final step is expanding the description of attributes and behaviors.
This chapter from About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design pushes for the use of personas around designs of products. We’ve seen the use of modeling to help us analyze the data, but this chapter goes into detail about how we can apply models to represent the important needs to keep in mind while designing in the form of personas.
Creating personas includes a necessary understanding of user goals. This stresses the important of all the work we’ve been doing in class through user studies to understand our audience of students for our portfolio project. The interpretation that we do from the data we get our of user studies will hopefully help our team reach a common understanding of users goals. This will greatly reduce the discussion around user needs in the design process.
There is a fine balance between satisfying too many needs and satisfying too little needs. This actually brings me back to my time when I was working as a software engineer. I was developing a front end web view or a mobile app, and having spent a lot of time around these interactions I thought of a lot of edge cases that my product manager at the time rejected. She exercised the principles that the chapter talked about around edge cases. Thinking back, the design we created didn’t have the use of personas, but it probably would have been a helpful thing to look back on rather than the intuition that my product manager seemed to use instead. The basis of her decision, although probably correct, was more of an intuitive feel from a general understanding than an objective analysis of customer bases.
One design principle stood out to me: “Don’t make the user feel stupid.” I think this is really important especially in regards to the educational products that we are developing. If we want to lower the barrier of entry for portfolios for students of all ages, we need to make sure that the tools we create are usable and encourage learning in a way that doesn’t make students feel incompetent.
I understand the usefulness that personas bring in the design process in theory. However I think personas are a lot more effective when the interview groups are a lot larger. It is unfortunate that my team wants to design a tool for middle school to high school students, but our first user study only contained interviewees with views from the college to university level. Although still applicable, to a degree, the age difference makes a difference to the relevance to our design. I’ll have to see how well they work in practice with our limited data set.
I appreciated the Cooper article as an approachable explanation of the purpose of personas, an instructive guide to creating these personas, and some defense of personas as design models. The idea of creating personas as a metric against which to measure your design seemed very valuable to me, particularly to avoid self-referential design and designing to edge cases. The car design example made a lot of sense to me when thinking about the value of these personas and the importance of looking at different goals. Although at a base level their car needs are only a means of transit, the different people and activities that the cars support mean that different people have very different goals from the cars.
The instructive elements that talked through the process of how to create a persona will be particularly helpful this week as we consolidate data from our User Study 3. I am particularly appreciative of the behavioral variables that he identified, namely activities, attitudes, aptitudes, motivations, and skills. I enjoy the concept and the general strategy of using the data we gathered to directly inform our interpretations and finding these behavioral variables from the data directly. However, I think the framework of those five categories gives me a good scaffolding for patterns to try to find in the data and ways to interpret the data in different ways. I’m curious to see how many variables we are able to generate from our data. Don Norman’s insights about the hierarchy of goals is another useful tool to keep in mind as we begin to construct our personas.
Finally, I was highly appreciative of the critiques of personas that Cooper offered, because I had been wondering some of the same things myself. In making these inferences about the ways that different users are grouped to represent one persona, a lot of the process initially did feel like “made-up” data to me – although it draws directly on data that have been collected, it forces our interpretation lens on the data we gathered, grouping behavior patterns and individuals according to categories that they might not associate with. Once we’ve made these groupings, we create a person whose story matches the data we have come up with – as I was first reading this article, it sounds like we abstract away from the data we gathered and create a set of people for whom we would like to design. However, Cooper’s response to the critique of the personas made me more at ease with the process. These fictional stories overlaid on the gathered data facilitate empathetic design. This contrast was illuminated for me when I considered the overly simplified personas he had presented about the car drivers in the beginning of the article: I feel no personal attachment to their needs. On the other hand, if there had been a persona description explaining the struggles that each of these different personas, I can imagine it being a much more compelling story. The persona process should keep the essence of the goals and behaviors that come directly from the data, but are elaborated upon to make them more compelling.
In the excerpt from About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Cooper el al, the authors discuss the method and values of modeling users through personas. Personas are archetypes of real users, and are constructed from user behaviors and motivations gathered during research.These personas become critical tools for designing and developing products, as it provides a way for designers to understand users’ goals, ideate, and finally validate design concepts. The authors emphasize that in order for these personas to be effective, the process of identifying patterns in user behavior and determining how to assemble them must be done thoroughly and carefully. Because personas are so powerful and serves multiple purposes for not just designers but stakeholders and developers as well, it’s important that the representations focus around the real target user and is free of misconceptions that may lead to pitfalls. I agree with the authors on the value of care one should put when giving them realistic characteristics to avoid giving any self-referential hints.
The human-like attributes of personas make them believable and realistic enough to engage empathy. A name, profile, and photographs that portray a narrative around the fictitious user is what enables a persona to convey emotional and experiential aspects of the user. Labels such as ‘user 1’ and ‘customer #2’ generalizes the target user and makes it challenging to focus on specific needs since a user and customer are both mere representative and not individuals. The authors suggest giving the persona a first and last name that doesn’t tend towards uniqueness or a stereotype because they are distracting. This is particularly important because names are immediate to identity, and once a relation is made it’s difficult to undo. I had an experience at work where a fellow designer gave one of the perona a name that referred to our manager, because she thought it’d be clever since the personality type of the two were similar. However, the manager was not one of our researched users and instead of the persona reflecting our true user, that persona inevitably pointed to that particular manager. It was a major pitfall for the design process because it distracted our ability to have genuine empathy towards this persona. While making personas believable is advantageous in many ways, designers must be attentive not to reflect self-referential designs or make any reference to stereotypes.
The reading described making personas and setting the user goals in details.
This reading helped me a lot in clarifying the process of making personas.
Persona and goal setting is the process that comes after data gathering phase. Based on the gathered qualitative data, the designers would create personas or composite user archetypes that represent behavior patterns of the interviewees to reflect the target users. Sometimes the design method of making persona is criticized for its fakeness, however, persona is actually built based on the actual data collected from various user observations and interviews.
I personally believe empathy is the most important virtue that the designers should possess. And persona is a very powerful tool since it allows the designers to create the empathy towards users by encouraging the designers to think in this imaginary yet embodied person’s shoes.
When our team was conducting contextual inquiry on four different users who keep portfolios, we talked about how it would be very effective to make personas that reflect different behaviors of the interviewees and draw out user journey maps that represent emotions when doing a project and practicing portfolio. I think it will be a great tool to synthesize and reframe the qualitative data we gathered and to see where the user’s pain points lie in user journey.
Then the reading goes on about setting user goals. Understanding goals is important because they are the driving force of the user’s actions. The reading refers to Don Norman’s Emotional Design to introduce the concept of three different levels of processing: visceral, behavioral and reflective. Based on these concepts, the reading suggests three types of user goals that correspond to the concepts: experience, end, and life goals.
The experience goal for the users we have in mind would be to have fun, engaging and seamless experience when making portfolio. The end goal will be to have an archive that collects all the artifacts of the projects. The possible life goal can be to see the personal growth over time.
Creating user personas is extremely beneficial tool for a design team to create a common understanding of the user and build empathy towards a user’s needs and frustrations. Personas help a design team understand a user framed within a narrative therefore evaluating context and opportunity cost. Further, personas also keep the design team accountable to ensure that they are truly meeting the needs of their user through the design process.
Successful personas are firmly rooted in the design data collected throughout the research phase. If a team fails to create robust personas they may fall into three pitfalls: the elastic user, self referential design, and the edge case. The elastic user is a user that morphs into whatever the design team needs at that moment. An elastic user can be an expert at one moment and morph into an unsophisticated first time user, therefore an elastic user adds nothing to the design process and does not keep the design team accountable. Self referential design happens when the designer or design team projects their own goals as the goals of the user. This pitfall also eliminates accountability and can lead to design solutions that do not address the target demographic. Edge cases are unusual personas the design process needs to consider, but should not necessarily be the focus of the design project. If personas are not grounded in data, they may become stereotypes and not personas. Stereotypes are a result of a designer’s biases and assumptions, and can lead to communication breakdowns. Designers must strive to supersede bias and assumptions.
Well crafted personas use context and demonstrate the user’s motivations, behavior, relationships, and interactions. Personas also help identify a user’s life goals, end goals, and experience goals in relation to a product. Life goals represent a person’s long term desires and will probably span past the scope of the project. End goals relate to the task a user hopes to perform while using the product. Experience goals highlight the “feel” of a product when a user employs the tool, and can be difficult to identify. Successful products must also address non-user goals such as customer and consumer, however user goals should remain at the forefront of the design process.
Personas are an extremely useful tool as a designer, and “Modeling Users: Personas to Goals” is an excellent manual on how to create strong personas. A huge advantage of personas is a communication tool that builds a deeper understanding of context and create empathy for users needs. As my team moves into the research synthesis phase, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of Open Portfolios through personas.
In chapter three of About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, the authors discuss personas and their practical implications. The umbrella term “model” is introduced and described as a way to physically represent complex phenomena. The article mentions that, “Good models emphasize the salient features of the structures and relationships they represent and de-emphasize the less significant details.” I found this sentence to be very insightful and thought it should certainly be kept in mind when designing relevant models; I believe it is a factor that is often overlooked when constructing useful models.
Specific models that describe a group of user and provide us with a, “precise way of thinking and communicating about how groups of users behave, how they think, what they want to accomplish, and how” are known as personas. Personas are remarkably useful due to their inherent nature of representing meaningful patterns found within a research group. Personas require the development of user groups who require their needs represented because their needs encompass those of secondary users as well. In the article, these “user roles” are described as, “an abstraction – a defined relationship between a class of user and their problems, including needs, interests, expectations, and patterns of behavior.”
The article later describes methods to design based on three different levels of cognitive and emotional processing: visceral, behavioral, and reflective. Visceral is the most immediate level of processing. It is strongly based on initial visual and other sensory stimuli. Behavioral comes next and is labeled as the secondary or middle level of processing. This level, “lets us manage simple, everyday behaviors.” Finally, the reflective level is the least immediate level of processing. Noting what level of cognition one is designing for can be a challenging topic that I personally have never considered before. As we move forwards in the design of a portfolio practice for TechShop, this is certainly something to remember.
Keeping these notes in mind during the construction of our personas is very important. The points raised in this article lay out a very clear path to developing effective personas that will yield a useful representation of our collected data. The personas we create should be able to show the different types of young learners (and their associated needs, wants, goals, etc.) that we will be developing for within TechShop.
Personas are descriptive models of users. In interaction design, they provide a composite view of users based on observed behavioral patterns, as opposed to basic stereotypes and generalizations. They require a considerable amount of research and thorough observation.
It’s important to note that when designing a product, you shouldn’t try to design with the mindset of pleasing every possible user. The authors note that if you make a product that accommodates everyone, then you just get a bunch of features that please no one. Instead, it’s best to target specific users who have specific needs. To do this, it’s important to choose the right individuals to study and design for; these users should have needs that best represent the needs of a larger group of users.
Utilizing personas as a design tool can help designers avoid three problems during development: the elastic user, self-referential design, and edge cases. A user becomes elastic when their goals and needs become too flexible, and thus the design goal becomes less clear. It’s more difficult to define a user this way. Self-referential design happens when a team working on a product projects its own goals onto the product’s design; this becomes dangerous because the user becomes the designer, as opposed to the actual potential user. Edge cases are situations that may happen, but for the most part will most likely not happen for most people. They should be considered while designing a product, but they should not be the focus of design. Personas are a good way of evaluating user goals, behaviors, and needs.
The authors go over a variety of persona types and guidelines for creating these personas in order to create an effective design. Designating persona types helps prioritize needs and goals for developing and designing a product. The authors break personas down into six different types: primary, secondary, supplemental, customer, served, and negative. As one could infer, designs should focus around a primary persona.
Later in the article, the authors describe other methods of design research and modeling including participatory design and contextual design.They briefly go over work flow models, or sequence models, artifact models, and physical models. I think that these models are useful as additional methods of design modeling, but it’s important to consider them as additional methods and not main bases of thinking. Personas are a really strong starting point and center of design research, especially when designing something with such a potentially large scale as our design challenge, and models may supplement personas but fail to look at potential users as people with needs, motivations, and goals.
Chapter three of About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design described the importance of making personas. The use of Personas were described as a tool to help determine the use of the product, aid with the communication of ideas, build design consensus, reiterate commitment to the design, measure effectiveness and contribute to further development of the product. The reading presented the creation of personas as effective tools to aid in the design process. Personas provide a overview of potential users and the different uses of the product based on observed patterns and are not supposed to fuel stereotypes and generalizations but rather, be specific to the behaviors of observed groups. I thought it was important to note that the “average human” does not exist. This requires designers to narrow down the targeted audience to a user that best captures needs for a larger group.
In using the personas as tools, the reading described the importance of setting goals to drive the motivations behind the action of the user. To create weak and far fetched goals was to create a product that would only work in extremely particular scenarios. A common theme throughout the reading was the idea of maintaining a balance between being too general and too specific.
As we move on to create prototypes, I think it would be important to remember that “Successful products meet user goals first.” It’s sometimes easy to get caught up on the novelty and get carried away with certain ideas. I think as we refer back to our personas, it would continue to serve as a reminder to keep our design streamlined and highlight the key goals of our product.
From this reading, I appreciated the tool being used to emphasize the human interaction aspect of a product. In the past, I felt that some of the readings made the “human” part of design second to some of the research methods and thinkings.
The Cooper reading about Personas gives a great overview of both the processes that go into developing effective user personas and the advantages that they pose to one's design. Because personas work at a certain level of abstraction, they afford us as designers the ability to understand our users at a broader and more comprehensive view, without running into the danger of viewing users as a set of bullet points to be satisfied. Keeping this sense of empathy engaged is obviously very important in user-centered design, and perhaps even more so in the context of learning media, where the user is often in need of more guidance than are users in other domains.
Speaking of our project, though, I do echo Stephanie's question of dataset size: how many users do we as designers need to be talking with and gathering data from before we can comfortably start creating personas? It seems that, in order to not accidentally overemphasize certain characteristics that might be outliers in a general population, it would be important to have a fair number of sample before creating a more homogenized persona.
In the reading of MODELING USERS: Personas & Goals, authors explains why personas are important, how to create useful personas, and what the counterargument of personas is. Personas, as a design tool, summarize mindset, motivation, behaviors, and different stage of goals held by key stakeholders This can help the designer to ideate new product and service and validate the concept after it is finished. The authors also put more focus on defining goals for the persona. In their opinion, goals are the motivation for their behaviors.
This article is very useful to our team project. The key we learn can be immediately applied to the work. The connection helps me personally to digest the material.
The most valuable part of this reading to me is the design pitfalls that personas help avoid.
In the group meeting, we had a discussion on the edge cases. During qualitative research, one important concern is the less user you can research on because of time and money constraint. Each interviewee plays a huge role into your insights finding to build the persona. When researchers interview not enough people, they will tend to get impressed by the edge case. Those users are so unique so that interviewer may consider the uniqueness as insights. Also, they love to talk about their particular cases so the not unique users are less mentioned. It heavily influences the persona building and leads designers to make wrong decisions based on the trap authors discuss in the reading.
Based on my experience, I am unaware of bringing my referential opinion into team discussion and the final design concept. Being an entrepreneur makes me highly depend on my intuition and instinct. When it comes to design, it is a big mistake. For example, many design projects are beyond my understanding, as the design for the portfolio platform for teenagers, or design emergency alarm for the elderly adult (my previous project). Users have more understanding in the particular domain, so keep my brain fresh and absorb as many information they provide is the right thing to do.
This part is not the major focus for the author, but they are more inspiring to me. After being aware of the trap, I can avoid those mistakes.
I enjoyed the personas chapter in "About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design." I personally needed a description of the connection between user studies and personas. I specifically needed a guide on how to extend insights found in interviews to a persona. Cooper gave an overview of methods and best practices of persona construction. Creating personas require data from directed research (user studies, etc). Cooper gives a guide of creating personas to including fully defining user needs and wants. Ultimately, these needs and wants will help designers find distinct user goals. These goals are what personas are based upon. Before reaching and defining goals, designers must synthesize data (including user environment, skills, problems, experience, and background). After synthesis, designers can check and sift through redundancies. Ultimately, the chapter ends with the final step of creating descriptions of a "persona." These personas must encapsulate all the synthesize data and the found goals and motivations.
In the reading of Modeling Users: Personas & Goals, the author provides an overview of personas, are a technique common in user experience (UX) research and design used to present a fictional portrait of a type of user, based on research. The article not only articulates the promises of personas, but it also points out some common mistakes. Those are very important advice for making personas.
Personas is a power tool for designers to determine the main users and communicate this idea to anyone on board. One thing I found is interesting is that the article addresses users’ goals into three different levels: visceral, behavioral and reflective. The behavioral goals are the most crucial ones since they harmonize elements of visceral design and reflective design. The goal in the visceral level is not only making things beautiful, but makes it meaningful to understand the ideas behind. I find it very helpful to break down users’ goals into these three levels, because I know where to start with when I developing personas. And it also allows me to provide a comprehensive set of users goals.
The use of personas is very useful in our team project. They offer a way to communicate both quantitative and qualitative data behind the persons, giving everyone in the team a better understanding of the goal of the personas. And when we were creating the personas, I realized that we were also refining the scope of our product. As the article pointed out, primary persona is the most important and only one persona. Thus, this forced me to think about who is the users we were serving and what were their goals.
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