RAA#4 Personas Revisited

Title & Author

Friess, E. (2012, May). Personas and decision making in the design process: an ethnographic case study. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1209-1218.

Purpose of the research

Personas are well-known technique for the interaction design process. But as we can see the example of the RAA#2, the current status of adoption among the professional designers are unclear. This paper tries to investigate this problem using the ethnographic case study.

This paper received a CHI 2012 Best Paper Awards.

Methods

The author investigates the problem using ethnographic methods. He participated and observed how the designers use personas during the design process. To enable objective view, she used a linguistic analysis. The reason she used an ethnographic methods was that even though there are many claims about the personas, it is not yet empirically supported by the practice. (Remember at the IBM half of seasoned designers thought that personas was useless and didn’t used.) That means that the actual behavior of the designers can be differ from what they insist or think about personas.

So this paper begins with the summary of the previous claims about the personas like “Personas engender interest and empathy toward users” or “Personas help diffuse conflict or disagreement among team members when discussing possible design solutions.” Will it be really the case in real world? To see this, she participated in the design process of top tier design consulting firm, where personas are well accepted. She recorded every meeting where design decisions were made, and analyzed the script.

Main findings

Q: How often the personas were used in their talk?
A: About 2%

Q: Who invoked a persona?
A: Mainly designers. Not clients. In detail, there were 4 designers. And 2 of them participated in the field work and developed the personas. Not surprisingly, it was those 2, who developed the personas, who mentioned the personas most frequently. (85% of all persona mention)

Q: Which personas were invoked?
A: There were 8 personas. Only 3 of them explains the 97.8% of design talk. (This can lead to the practical insight of the number of personas).

Q: When were personas invoked?
A: During the scenario meeting for cognitive walkthrough. In other words, they made a story how each persona character will interact with the product.
Analysis

Q: How were Personas used in Decision-Making?
A: Mainly for Role playing(48%) and Focusing(34%).

  • An example of Role playing

“So, Dr. Samuels, she would probably not do that. She checks her timing, looks at the scree, and makes the diagnosis.”

  • An example of Focusing

“Well, that might be ideal for Georgia, but for now we needed to close in how autopilot can make this thing foolproof for Michael.”

Other than Role-playing and focusing, there were meeting maintenance(11%), empathy(3%), clarification(3%) and approximation (1%).

Analysis of the result

Despite the fact that this group spent several week interviewing end users and developing personas, they make relatively few mention in the actual design process except the meeting for the cognitive walkthrough. And the “common language benefit” is overly idealized for the clients never referred personas.

Instead of the persona (3%), they used their own opinions(25%) and story telling(21%) during the design process, for example to persuade design solution.

Conclusion

I have an opinion about the persona process. I think it is a like novel-writing using research data. Why designers do that? They do it to process the data mentally in higher level. During the process of personas creation, the designers unconsciously analyze the research data to create a story.  This enables deeper processing and understanding, which leads to the longterm memory.  So what is important is not the persona but the writing process itself.

So for me, it is not surprising to see that the persona itself is not so much used in the decision making process even in the top-tier firm where personas are widely accepted.  Because the designers “gained”, “digested” and “internalized” the insight about the target users during the personas process, they don’t have to rely on the personas for any specific purpose. The insights are shared among the designers who participated in the personas creating process. So they can focus on the design-domain specific issue using design language.

And it is not surprising for me, that those who created personas, used them most frequently(85% of all mention). My view is also supported by the author, who says “It appears that those who are involved in the creation of the persona have a better understanding of the personas and the user-at-large than those who are mere recipients of the personas.”

Also for me, designing using the personas developed by others are completely wrong use of the technique.

Finally one thing interesting to me is that an ethnographic study is usually done by the designers to understand the users. However in this paper, the study subject is the designers themselves.

“This reflexive move enables a descriptive assessment of how designers themselves actually use personas, not just how designers think they use personas or how designers think persons should be used.”

RAA#3: Web Experience Analysis

Title & Author

Website Experience Analysis: A New Research Protocol for Studying Relationship Building on Corporate Websites by Mihaela Vorvoreanu

Purpose of the research

If we think about the paradigm of the design again, there is an engineering and usability. Engineering means the product is working and usability means it is easy to use. But is that all? No. There is an UX which means the overal experience like pleasant to use. If we think the purpose of the website is relationship building with the public, it goes beyond usability. This paper proposes a process, web experience analysis to analyze this. For example, if one website wants to sell something to the public, it should build a relationship with the potential customer so that the company is trustable and the product usage will be interesting or pleasant. Previous methods only focused on the usability of the website, but in this case usability alone is not sufficient to persuade the customer. So the author proposes a new research protocol to measure what element of the website contributes to the relationship building.  Also previous methods try to analyze the contents of website itself, but it is the process of interacting with websites that builds relationship.

Methods

WEA tries to find the dimensions of the communications involved. For this paper, five dimensions which is trust, commitment, involvement, dialogue and openness. According to the these dimension, survey questionnaire was constructed. For example of trust, the following 2 question is asked to the participant after they review the site.

  • Do you feel you can trust this organization?
  • What on this website makes you feel this way?

They selected 9 corporate website according to the size. So there is large company, medium company and small company. The selection according to the size was done to ensure that the familiarity with the company name will not interfere with the each judgement. 6 participant was selected for each corporate websites. The number 6 is derived from the Nielsen’s suggestion that almost all of usability issue can be found with the testing of 5 users. They used a homogenous group of students who attended a class together.  This characteristic of the participant assures that the participants belongs to the same interpretative community.  The analysis focuses on the answer about which aspect of the sites influence the participants’ judgement about each relationship building dimension.

Main findings

According to the WEA analysis, we can find which element of the website can contribute to the each of five relationship dimension.  The main findings from the research was summarized below.

Trust: information about the organization’s history, background and value, visual characteristic like white background, quantity of the information

Commitment: consumer orientation,  maintaining only business relationship with its public, contact information

Investment: donation to charities, the very nature of an organization’s activity, graphics and pictures

Openness: detailed information about the business, quantity of the information, the availability of contact information

Dialogue: the availability of the contact information

But more important than the findings about specific value, the paper proposes a new research protocol, which is beyond a specific research example.  So the conclusion is that we can and should measure which element of website affect the relationship building process.

Analysis

I think human relies on as much as emotional experience as logical analysis.  For example, if I have to decide which graduate school to attend, I will rely not only the logical analysis but emotional impact of the website.  So in this perspective, I think this experience-centered analysis proposes a meaningful direction for the website or product analysis.

However, in my opinion, the choice of the dimension seems a little arbitrary.  For example, the difference between the dialogue and openness is not clear to me.  Also the dimensions can be different according to the goal of the website.  For example, the websites for the information delivery and persuasion will appeal to the different aspects of communication dimension.

And as the author points out, “the potential risk of an interpretive, experience-centered perspective are endless relativism and subjectivism”.  The author argues however there are interpretive communities who share a set of interpretive strategies.  The concept of clustered people is what I am personally pursuing.  In my opinion, I would like to investigate how different communities perceives or experiences the same website elements.  For example, if  use 3 websites and 3 different groups of 6 people can show this aspect.

Finally one participant’s comment made me think about the more holistic approach to the relationship building process.

“Well I would have to know more about the organizations.  The appearance of a website can be deceiving.  I would have to research the organization more to determine if I could trust them.”

As we are learning the online identity management, the same can be applied here.  Nowadays a website is not alone.  If I would like to know about a company, I will google the company.  When there is many negative contents associated with a company, then no matter how the company website try to give the trust, it would fail.

 

Conclusion 

I would like to add Web Experience Analysis protocol  to the user testing of previous CGT website.   The reason is that the decision to select graduate school is important and maybe feeling like emotional attachment can play important role in the process.  Due to the lack of the resources, we will have to choose most important dimension in using CGT website in the intention of graduate school selection.  It can be an trust or fun.  Our team will have to identify the key dimension to ask.

One minor detail I learned is that I have to delete cookies and temporary internet files.  The reason is that it can affect the loading speed or browsing experience.  We can apply that instruction in our usability testing.