Before we talk about personas, let’s get this out of the way:
The class consists of undergraduate seniors majoring in HCDE, Technical Communication, Electrical Engineering, and Informatics. I provided an online survey so they could inform me of their interests and goals.
Based on their responses, I created 5 teams of 5 students, assigning each student one of the following roles: user researcher, project manager, content strategist, visual designer, or technical support/developer. As the instructor, my role is project lead/mentor for each team. While students are expected to collaborate on all project aspects, providing the students roles that map to the “real world” gives structure and an empowering responsibility often lacking in student team projects.
Each team has been tasked with redesigning UW’s eCare online healthcare service by engaging with user-centered design methods. eCare provides instant access to doctors, medical records, and prescription information to anyone in the UW healthcare system. In light of the unique service platform provided, the opportunities for improved interaction design are almost limitless.
The assignment: Create Data-Driven Personas
A well-crafted, research-based persona is an archetype that smoothes out the idiosyncrasies of real individual people while retaining the patterns of needs and behaviors in the target market. At the same time, a persona retains enough human detail to feel like a real person. – Alan Cooper
Given their needs and time frame, students decided that surveys, interviews, and card sorts were the most viable research options. We discussed informed consent and how to structure user interviews, with the students receiving guidance from me and feedback from each other.
After gathering data, the students came back to class – with information from more that 50 current and potential users of the eCare service. Instructed to bring sticky notes and pens, they were greeted by this big sheet of butcher paper on the wall.
To expedite the process, I labeled six areas of focus:
The students quickly got to work grouping their data-points. I had originally intended on facilitating the diagramming in a more rigid fashion, but the students enthusiastically ascribed meaning to their groupings as needed. I decided to get out of he way and let them work, only guiding when a catalyst was needed to make the next connection.
By the time the students were through, hundreds of post-it notes covered the wall representing the thoughts, ideas, and behaviors of their intended audience. The teams documented the affinity diagram through pictures, notes, and drawings.
After giving them a short 20-minute lecture on Persona creation, the students took their data, tasked with coming back to the next class session with three draft scenarios based on both the information collected by each group and the larger data set the class gathered as a whole.
In Dave Gray’s book, “Gamestorming,” he describes a group brainstorming activity that allows for the group to empathize with what the subject of ideation is thinking, feeling, saying, hearing, seeing, and doing. The students applied this brainstorming technique to build out their draft scenarios and gain a greater understanding of the personas they were creating.
The Completed Personas
Armed with data, scenarios, and an empathetic understanding of their composite user’s needs, each team completed a primary and two secondary personas to help drive their design decisions for the rest of the quarter. They presented their personas to the class, where they received critique on the ideas, content, and design of the personas. My students impressed me with the amount of mindfulness imbued in their work.
The students completed this assignment in 2.5 weeks, and for many of them this is their first design course.
To prepare for this assignment, the students read:
Chapter Three, Thoughts on Interaction Design, Jon Kolko
Chapters 6 & 7, A Project Guide to UX, Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler
Affinity Diagramming was based on “Contextual Inquiry” by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holzblatt
Empathy Mapping (and further Affinity Diagramming inspiration) was based on the ideas in “Gamestorming” by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo
I based the grading criteria on best practices for personas as defined by Forrester Research: