March 2010 Meeting: Cynthia Putnam Presents Personas

  • 25 Mar 2010
  • 6:30 PM - 8:29 PM
  • University of Washington, Engineering Bldg, Room 0037
Cynthia Putnam, PhD candidate and research assistant in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington, will present new findings on Personas and their use in the UX design process.

6:30 - 7:00 Networking and food
7:00-8:30 Presentation and questions

User experience (UX) research for the design of technology products and services utilizes several methods from human-centered design (HCD) to summarize and explain pertinent information about end users to design teams. However, UX researchers cannot effectively communicate the needs and goals of end users if designers do not find UX research (a) easy to integrate into design processes and (b) perceive it as contributing valuable information that helps them create better designs. Personas and scenarios are examples of communication artifacts employed by UX research to communicate to design teams.

A persona is an archetypal character that is meant to represent a group of users in a role who share common goals, attitudes and behaviors when interacting with a particular product or service. A scenario is a story describing a character in an activity; in the context of UX research, scenarios describe important user activities in relation to a product or service. This investigation was concerned with exploring multiple variables that contribute to the success and/or failure of the use of personas and scenarios.

Specifically, this investigation asks, are personas and scenarios perceived as usable, useful and effective translations/conduits of user research by designers; in other words, do they meet the positive claims made of them in the literature and avoid the criticisms and concerns? And what should UX researchers strive to understand about designers to maximize designer understanding of end user goals and needs, in other words, can personas and scenarios be made more useful and usable?

This was studied, in part, by using personas and scenarios that represented mobile users in Kyrgyzstan. This population represented an example of a geographically ‘distant’ audience in which local designers (from Seattle, Washington) would have minimal familiarity. As technology expands globally and towards greater inclusion, the chances to encounter distant audiences will increase; this innate lack of familiarity in turn focuses on the need for useful and usable UX research. Disambiguating the variables that contribute to the utility of personas and scenarios will help better the communication between UX research and design teams in HCD practice, and ultimately lead to better end-user experiences.
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