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Aug 2006

Personas yes, but…

If a recent article in Les Affaires’ e-journal, Personas…Grata? is any evidence, personas are becoming more and more popular with e-commerce strategists. This article, written by M. Renaud, from Adviso Conseil, demonstrates how personas can be useful when implementing an e-commerce strategy.
It is interesting to note, as an aside, that Mr. Renaud’s company doesn’t specialize in ergonomics or usability, and yet they’re sensitive enough to promote the concept… you don’t hear us complaining : )
For the most part, Yu Centrik has systematically applied the Personas method to client projects for over two years. It’s been a dog’s age since I’ve heard a client refer to a “client segment” or to the “average Web user”, when referring to their users’ needs and expectations.
The way we refer to users as consumers has evolved on the whole. In fact, our clients generally refer to Gerald or Sue, instead of “the active segment of the population aged 35-44” or even to Brian and Julia, rather than “adolescents aged 12-17”.
We’ve also noticed a dramatic change in self-referencing, in that our clients no longer refer to themselves as their users, which used to be the case. In fact, they’ve gladly abandoned the practice.
I would like to add one little clarification, as a complement to Mr. Renaud’s article: applying the Personas methods means a little more than brainstorming a few facts about your clients, creating a few profiles and giving them names. Creating personas should be one of your main activities when applying a user-centered approach to designing products. Personas will only contribute to your product’s success if you focus on their goals and tasks, and if you stick with them for the life of your project.
To do so, you should follow a few simple steps that are inherent to the user-centered design (UCD) process. You should also remember, at all times, that the data you’re going to collect during your ethnographic analysis should help you define three essential goals, as Robert Reimann suggests in his interview for Dan Shaffer’s recent book, Designing for Interaction :
1) the experience goals, which describe the experience the users want to have (or not have) when using your product;
2) the end goals, which describe that which the users actually wish to accomplish by using your product and the results they expect; and,
3) the life goals, which describe the persona’s greater aspirations in life, as they relate to the product. This helps define what the product represents for this user.
By focusing on goals and behaviour patterns, and combining this approach with the scenarios method, we can translate these goals into design functions and solutions.
This is what makes Cooper’s Personas approach so powerful.

If the topic interests you, we’re offering a training session on Personas at the Centre de Recherche en Informatique de Montréal (CRIM), in Montréal and Québec City this fall.

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