Personas: A beginning

In the days before iPhone, back when Blackberries, Palm Pilots, and Sidekicks ruled the mobile phone market, I took a job as an interaction designer on AOLs Mobile Desktop Channel. The site was a space for people to go to on their computers to find out what products AOL had for their phones. Although, it was already clear that I had the true soul of a UXer, it was my first job as a UX specialist. And I, like many of peers, was self taught and did not yet know all the tools available to me in the UX toolbox. Quite by accident I stumbled into the world of Personas.
uc_mobileshopping_SearchI was working on user scenarios when my boss suggested that instead of using the generic term “the user,” I should give the user a name. I browsed the reserved list of AOL chat names and chose GabbyGrace. Which was perfect since we were taking about a phone user.
Over the next few months, Gabby started to develop a bit of a personality. She was a bit of a novice mobile user — palm pilot was her choice phone — and needed guidance around how to use her phone. Shortly, she was joined by her son DevinJacks, teenage Sidekick user, and her sister InternetAnne, Blackberry power user.  With this trio, I had developed a sound set of users to center in our discussion for developing features for the site.
gabbyandanneOne day, I was working on a scenario and decided I needed a picture of Gabby and Anne looking at their phones. My team expressed their pleasure about getting to see finally what these two looked like. And I, learned just how powerful personas were as a tool. I was hooked. I wanted to learn everything thing I could about the world of Personas.
Over the next few years, I used personas as a principle part of my design toolkit. I also began to develop a process that insured that at every step along the way my personas, and there by my users, were kept central to all discussions and deliverables. Although the individual items with in this process are not necessarily new, it is the combination and organization of this process that makes it unique. I call this process Persona StoryTelling.
Persona StoryTelling helps us to discover what the user needs and then shape our business to assure that we can met those needs and drive conversions. At every step along our project, StoryTelling helps us to keep those user needs top of mind. Through this method, we are giving the user a seat at the table, giving her a voice, and keeping the focus on her and not ourselves. Persona Storytelling, as a whole process, can help move projects forward by creating a common understanding between stakeholders, contributors, and team members. This understanding is the first step to creating innovative products that will delight your users.

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