It’s been long ingrained in the application development culture to work from functionality/solution perspective and to please the buyer by coming up with a large list of features. User’s needs, wants or behavior was never taken into consideration at any stage of development. This resulted in applications where users had to accommodate instead of application being accommodating for the users.
As the users are getting exposed to plethora of applications both at work and in personal life and the social networking becoming a part of daily life, it becomes extremely important that our applications are also well designed and accommodate the changing user needs and behavior.
Companies are now realizing more than ever the benefits of following user centered design. Persona is one of the tools that helps in effectively communicating this. It aids in creating a user centered culture among various teams in an organization that directly or indirectly affect the design of the application. Persona is a depiction of a typical user of the application while not same as an archetype of a person. Persona should be more around the specific attitudes or behavior that is relevant to the space of work.
Persona is created based on assumptions we make by knowing the user group either by collecting the data about the potential users or by going through the historical usage of similar products. While doing this, it is important to focus only on the primary user groups who are most important and directly use the application so that our design caters the actual user and not the other stake holders. It is also critical to distinguish the Buyer from the User so that the design is not biased and sales driven. As long as the application is designed for the user, it solves the purpose along with pleasing them and boosts the sustainability of the product among the competition.
In designing an enterprise application, the following important elements should be captured in a persona to get a good understanding of the user that helps in better design decisions and come up with feature list
- Demographics (Age, Gender, and Geographical Location) & Educational Qualifications: This helps in knowing the user’s preferences, level of sophistication and understand the cultural nuances. This may sometimes help us in choosing the right language, usage of certain words and also as simple as choosing the fonts & colors.
- Technical know-how (Devices they use – Desktop, Laptop, Tab, Mobile, etc.): This will tell us the technical expertise of the user in general with software applications and what devices they are comfortable with. This can become the input for deciding on the platforms & the devices the application will be supported on.
- Job Role & a Typical Work Day: This is an important input which tells us what the user is responsible to accomplish on a daily basis and how important is the application being designed as part of user’s job. This can also tell us whether the application is a sovereign or transient for the user.
- Life Style & Social Networking Interests: As enterprise applications will be used by a large population of employees within a company and social networking emerging now more than ever, it is important to know the user’s interest around this. This can give us directions in building features around interaction among employees and possibly integration with other social networking sites that brings in more value. This will also help us in learning the user behavior with the advanced interfaces & newer interactions which can be embedded within the application.
Adding a picture, name and family details to this fictitious person will make it more realistic and helps the development teams relate more to the user. Personas can be either posted online on company intranet portal or printed as life size posters and can be placed in the work areas so that user becomes part of the system. Personas should be updated depending on the changes in work environment or with technology trends or user behavior.