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Customer Review

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What would "Bob" do?, October 4, 2006
This review is from: The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web (Paperback)
When creating a web site, it's very easy to fall into the trap of designing it for yourself. Unfortunately, you're not the typical user in most cases, nor are you the intended audience. You can avoid this problem with the use of "personas". The subject is covered very well in this book.

User-driven design means that you focus on what the user needs in a system instead of designing features because they're "cool". Personas are imaginary users of your system that you keep in mind while designing how the application will work. But it's much more than just picking a name like Bob and then coding away...

This book goes into the process of interviewing the user base of your proposed application, determining the needs and abilities of that base. A system that is to be used by computer-savvy accountants will not have the same look and feel as a system that is intended for your grandmother. By conducting these interviews and consolidating the results, the designer can get a good idea as to what a typical user will look like. That information is then used to create a number of personas, or fictitious people who will be the target audience. These personas come complete with names, pictures, and a background. Then instead of building features based on how you feel about them, you look at the feature through the eyes of "Bob", based on his attitudes, experience, and personality. It's like having a user available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The User Is Always Right takes you through the steps necessary to understand the audience for your system, as well as how to make that audience "real" in terms of individual people. The authors do a nice job in making the process clear and understandable, and by the end you can start building your imaginary friends with confidence. The process outlined here is one that you wouldn't necessarily use for every project, as you could spend days gathering and distilling the data you collect. But the concepts they present, once understood, will allow you to build your "Bob"s even with small systems. Then armed with that knowledge, you can anticipate answers to the question "what would Bob do?"

So... If you are tired of designing really cool systems (to you) that don't ever seem to get used, it may be because you missed the real users. Give the persona technique a try, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how it affects your development.

Besides, how else could you actually be commended for inviting and talking to imaginary friends?
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Thomas Duff "Duffbert"
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Location: Portland, OR United States

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