Reflection on my user research and persona creation.

Before studying this unit, I had never analysed my own use of technologies, or attempted to ask myself why I used the technology I do.  I simply took it for granted as part of life.  It is surprising how little time we spend in wonderment at the technology we use; a sure indicator of the pervasiveness of technology in our life.  There is very little, “Wow – how cool is that!”, and a lot of, “What can this do for me?” In my Quantified Self post, I analysed and discussed my health and fitness tracking, but I had still not examined or questioned my other uses of technology.  Doing this persona creation project allowed me to examine those other usages.

What did I learn about my own use of technologies?

I was interested to see that four major goals and needs for technology emerged from my user research. I discovered that I use technology to:

  • keep up to date professionally, and allow me to work more efficiently
  • make family life simpler, organised, and efficient
  • track, analyse and interpret my health and fitness data
  • keep in touch with distant family.

Family Organisation tools:

The need I was most fascinated with, and the one I will spend a bit of time discussing now, is the role of technology in my organisation of family life.  The use of organisational technologies in family life is essential to me, and I could not get by without them; specifically, Google calendar and Gmail.

I populate Google calendar with every possible thing we might need to remember; such as:

The obvious:

  • birthdays, public holidays, school holidays, uni holidays, student-free days, doctor’s appointments, children’s sports, etc.

My own activities and events, such as:

  • running schedule
  • what week of uni I am up to
  • when assignments are due
  • when lectures are on (I could forget).

I also populate down to the fine minutiae such as:

  • which uniform each child needs to wear each day (sports or day)
  • what day homework and library books needs to be returned (different for each child!)
  • what days swimming is on so togs are not forgotten
  • when we need to put out the recycling bin (really – this appears as a recurring, fortnightly appointment!)
  • what days I am picking up the kids from school.
  • When to start online shopping for Christmas (this appears in my calendar as “begin online research for assignment” because my daughter can see everything in my calendar).

Google calendar screenshot

(Do you think October is too late to start online shopping for Christmas?)

I share my calendar with my husband and daughter (my daughter has a strong need to know what is going on in the family), so all appointments can be seen (hence the camouflage for the Christmas shopping). My calendar is available across all my/our devices (phone, tablet, iPad, computer) so that notifications are always received, and appointments, activities and reminders are not forgotten: for example, Google Calendar notifications received to my phone this evening (for tomorrow) include:

  • “Ben sports uniform”phone_google notif_screenshot
  • “Emma show and tell – insects”
  • “8km run”

When I organise appointments, I “cc” my husband in to email correspondence with teachers; and even send calendar invites to my husband for parent-teacher interviews, birthday parties, and other activities.

I have found that if something is not in my calendar, it doesn’t happen.   Occasionally (very occasionally), this beautiful system might break down, due to user error. We had an example of this a couple of weeks ago, when my husband arranged a parent-teacher interview with my daughter’s teacher, told me when it was, and left it at that. Well, he assures me that he told me when it was, but I don’t remember him telling me.  Anyway, the appointment did not go into my calendar, and we missed the interview. Of course, we are now “bad parents”.  But that’s ok.  I don’t really mind if the teacher has low expectations of us.

My life is in my calendar. Sharing of my calendar enables other family members to know what is going on without me needing to remember to tell them; because the busier I get, the worse my memory is.  The more I can take out of my head and put into Google Calendar, the better.  It’s good for my mental health too; it prevents my mind looping around and around trying to remember everything that needs to happen, and worrying that I will forget something. This list of 25 ways to reduce stress and anxiety without medication    places getting organised by using a calendar as no. 2!

How I used my user research to create my persona:

During the creative process, I thought about my persona a lot while I was out running; particularly trying to work out a catchy tag line for her.  I didn’t come up with the “Running to keep up” tag while I was out running, funnily enough.  I couldn’t really get it all straight in my head, and found that I needed to sit down and start writing it all down, to see what emerged.  I started off with personal details and biographical information, and then wrote goals, needs, motivations and frustrations to try to get a sense of who the persona was.  Then I listed everything I could about all the technology I use, across my various roles, both personal and professional.  The poster of course only contains a fraction of what I wrote, and it is still too wordy, although I think I did capture the essence of the persona of “Laura, the busy mum. Running to keep up.”  I think Laura typifies a user that a lot of people would identify with; i.e. working mothers with young children, who need to be super-organised to fit everything in and get everything done.  Laura is not me, but she is based on me.  Laura sounds like she tries too hard, and I feel like I don’t try hard enough.

My understanding of user research and persona creation:

Doing user research using only myself as the subject felt like cheating.  The evidence-based practitioner in me would feel more comfortable with a larger sample size from which to collect and analyse data and come up with groupings and themes based on that representative sample. There is obviously a risk that data from a single subject case study will not be generalisable to the normal population. I could be a “unique snowflake”, in which case, my persona will not be useful as a tool to help understand users.

However, I do feel as if I gained an understanding of the process of user research by engaging in the exercise, and I did find it interesting to create a persona from that user research (even if it was a sample size of 1).  I didn’t do anything very original to come up with the tag-line, “Laura, the busy mum”.  I used this particular tag-line because it carries a lot of meaning in our society, due to its use/overuse in the media, advertising and marketing.  I capitalised on this cultural knowledge and used “Laura, the busy mum” in my poster, because I knew that the phrase had the power to immediately cue people in to whom and what the persona represented. The persona may alienate some, bore or engage others, depending on their political, ideological and philosophical attitudes, their education, race, cultural background, gender, and life experiences.

And I wonder if people are too “savvy” these days to be influenced by a tag-line like “Laura the busy mum”.  Will they just roll their eyes cynically, because the phrase has been so overused in the media? (I know that I have rolled my eyes when I have heard the phrase on yet another baby product commercial). I suppose that is a question that persona developers need to address during persona creation.  But there are genuinely many busy mums out there, so I think this persona has life in it yet.

I do think that much of the power of personas lies within the 3 or 4 word tag-line that is used to conjure in someone’s mind (perhaps a consumer’s mind) an image or sense of a person.  This makes personas a powerful tool in advertising and marketing.

Neilsen (2013) states that personas are also useful in product development, enabling all team members to have a common sense of the person they are designing for, and maintaining the team’s user focus.  However, Neilsen acknowledges that the use of personas is criticised by some who say that their use distances designers from real users.

I think that personas can be powerful and useful, as long as they are based on real data from real users, thus ensuring their credibility.

References:

Nielsen, L., & Books24x7, I. (2013;2011;2012;2015;).Personas: User focused design (1. Aufl.;2013;1; ed.). DE: Springer Verlag London Limited.

Appendix 1. Attribution of images used in Persona Poster

Title Author Source License
My favorite model Mauricio Lima https://www.flickr.com/photos/minhocos/14301568756/ CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Computer Lab icon By PanierAvide (Own work) Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Computer_lab_icon.svg

File URL

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Computer_lab_icon.svg

CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en
Office room icon By PanierAvide (Own work) Page URL

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOffice_room_icon.svg

File URL

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7a/Office_room_icon.svg

CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en
Family -Symbols George Hodan http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=28515 Public domain
Runner pictogram ClkerFreeVectorImages https://pixabay.com/en/runner-pictogram-sport-fast-black-305189/  CC0 Public Domain

Free for commercial use
No attribution required

Conversation dialogue icon Josemiguels https://pixabay.com/en/conversation-dialogue-icon-1262311/  CC0 Public Domain

Free for commercial use
No attribution required

Smartphone icon Sebastiano_Rizzardo https://pixabay.com/en/phone-smatphone-android-vector-804792/ CC0 Public Domain

Free for commercial use
No attribution required

Tablet icon Dave Gandy Page URL

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATablet_font_awesome.svg

File URL

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/30/Tablet_font_awesome.svg

[CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
USB icon Mobius at en.wikipedia Page URL

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUSB_Icon.svg

File URL

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/USB_Icon.svg

[Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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