The Power of Personas: Software should NOT make you feel stupid!Drew Harris
When you know your target it is much easier to hit it. Yet, there are countless stories of people developing software to some vague specification rather than developing it as a real solution to a real problem for a real person to help them solve real goals. You may have heard the expression that is commonly used by members of "AA"; "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results is the definition of stupidity". I feel for the people that think they must use poorly developed or designed software. Often, poor software makes the people use it feel stupid. It is in fact the engineers and designers that continue to work the same way regardless of how the users interact with the system that are stupid.
Software should NOT make you feel stupid! Yet, there have been many people who come to our firm in total frustration and confusion about the technology that is supposed to be helping them in their business. I ask these business owners about their business, their goals, and who the buyers are that we should use as are target during our design and development. By understanding we can better serve our clients and develop solutions that empower them and their buyers rather than making them feel stupid.
A little company called 37signals, which has a few successful software projects you may have heard of wrote this blog article (http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/mr_more.php) many years back to help illustrate the value of simple solutions. Spending the time up front to Discover who are your targets are will save a lot of time and heartache later. We interview our clients to help us discover who their targets are, we call each target a persona. Personas are not a new concept, Alan Cooper wrote an entire book centered around the concept of developing personas for Interaction Design called The Inmates Are Running the Asylum that I would highly recommend.
We develop these Personas as real detailed fictional people who have real problems to be solved, real goals, real experiences, and interactions with other real people. It's a process much like developing a character in a play or a movie. These personas for each project provide our client with a very real picture of WHO they need to target in their efforts empowering them to make real progress and stop "spinning their wheels" in their business efforts. Each persona also provides my team with a very real picture of who we should be designing and developing for. It's not the client, it's the persona and sometimes we have to remind our client that we all need to focus on the true target, our personas.
The personas become the cornerstone of our efforts in design and development. We do our best to "get into character" and see things through their eyes.
Discovery and development of personas is a very powerful tool in helping us design and develop software/Website solutions that do NOT make people feel stupid.