Field Notes HCD Foundations and Frameworks

Getting Started: User Personas

HCD 101: Know your humans.

These are some of the excerpts from training I conduct with agency programs and leaders. The biggest ah-ha moment can come from quite simple analogies. Having this discussion first is important to technology leaders, especially. I try to clearly depict: a user persona is not merely a fun exercise, it is the seed to grow robust data models for predictive technologies based on user needs.

What is a User Persona?

“Fictional characterizations drawn from real research data. They are not preconceived stereotypes; they are archetypes borne of careful study. Personals serve as a powerful way to make your data meaningful. When you put a face to your findings, you make your insights visible and memorable. 

The best Persona Profiles are comprised of illustrations, descriptive text, and a photo portrait. They can help your team remember and discuss the people for whom you are designing. As reference for generating ideas, prioritizing features, or discussing trade-off decisions, personas are a valuable tool for decision making.”

-From: Innovating for People, LUMA Institute

Parts of a User Persona:

Though it looks a little silly at first, user personas are the seeds to incredibly powerful impact. The difference between, say, an Amazon or Facebook’s User Persona of you and the new start up is the difference in why one can seem to predict what you want or give you the (sometimes eerie) sense that they “know,” you.

Jarvis “knows,” Tony Stark very well. Ask: How deep is your data or persona about your users?
This is a simple example of one done for Congress. At first, it can seem that “congress,” are a group of homogenous users. There are freshman and senior congress men, their junior or senior staff and directors, legislative counsel, and apolitical career public servants who all carry out the duties of congress. (Pardon the stock image, he is clearly not 54.)
Marsha is a true to life lawyer from HOLC. Helping her carry out her duties with modern tools is an exciting venture.
  • Background: Narrative is best, but bullets can work too.
  • Quote: Optional, but a perspective defining quote can help bring the team together.
  • Implicit Goals: Goals they probably won’t say out loud, like “get re-elected,” or “raise money,” or “beat the opposition.”
  • Explicit Goals: Goals they say publicly like, “uphold the Constitution,” “make meaningful change.”
  • Demographic Information
  • Painpoints

User Personas are key to agile development:

This is an example from training healthcare company executives who provide support for Center for Medicare and Medicaid. They were previously practicing agile with one single persona of a “Provider.” A provider, it turns out, can describe anyone from an advanced nurse practitioner, an entrepreneurial chiropractor, to a doctor at a family practice.

Theory of User Personas:

Starting with the basic profile is at the “Empathy,” stage. Getting to the “Predict,” stage comes from collecting relevant data overtime.

Government CX will need trust built over time in order to build toward more and more helpful systems that can lead to predictive systems. The state of collecting useful user data is a big topic that can be driven by CX focused people at every level of Government.

I often see that many user personas get stuck in the “Empathize,” phase in agencies. Moving forward to the next step requires building coalitions and lasting champions in CX.

Principles of User Personas:

User personas drive the most powerful business decisions in private sector:

Heres a very complex use of understanding human personas in technology:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *