IA Summit 2008: Todd Zaki Warfel’s “Data Driven Design Research Personas”

Todd Zaki Warfel of MessageFirst had a completely different presentation style than the rest of the presenters at IA Summit. His talk, titled “Data Driven Design Research Personas,” was more of a conversation than a lecture. He was down the center aisle most of the time asking people questions about their experiences with user research and design personas. It certainly wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before, but Todd was able to put it into terms that were much easier to grasp and had a few great tips for getting it done the right way.

My Twitter notes are here:

  • Todd is already down the aisle and asking people for definitions of personas. This certainly will be entertaining
  • “Personas are archetypes to guide decisions about product features, nav, interactions and even visual design” — Kim Goodwin
  • Personas focus on behavior and activity, are contextual and specific to a particular application or service
  • Personas make sure your design matches up with customer and business goals. Back up for your designs. Creates common understanding
  • Personas force design team to talk about users. Truth is that average user doesn’t exist. Personas keep you out of user
  • Personas are a powerful way to communicate knowledge, activities, interests, influencers, goals and pain points
  • Personas can be used to recruit the right participants for usability testing
  • Personas can be used for prioritizing functionality for the release
  • Personas can be used for training. Onboarding new customer service representatives to better understand the people they’re helping
  • Great personas created using multiple sources of data. Different types of research yields different types of data
  • Quantitative research yields the “what”, while qualitative yields the “why”
  • Use internal resources like stakeholders and SMEs. Use external sources like customers and, generally, the world: Yahoo! Groups
  • DO NOT let the client tell you there’s no time for user research. Todd’s team went to an AT&T store for 1 hour during lunch to do interviews
  • And yes, you can use someone you know who has similar characteristics and fits the profile of your user
  • Getting the whole persona on one page is tricky. Photo, quote, demographics, 2-3 paragraph day in the life, goals
  • Todd advocates for the Persona DNA Model (20% of screen, 80% of data): Knowledge scales, activities and interest scales
  • Note: Take a look through the slides to get a photo of the Persona DNA Model. Great data visualization example that feels lightweight but incredibly informative

Check out the slides here:

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