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I am working on an web based application that is accessible by a small group of clients and their employees. I have been reading a lot about the development of personas but I'm not sure that that is really the correct technique to use in this situation. The roles of these users all fall into a very narrow technical field.

  • If the roles are very specific to certain small demographic/ethnographic types do I need to develop personas at all? Or are those the actual characteristics that I would need in developing personas?
  • With a small well defined user base is it worth the development of full fledged personas? If so how could they be utilized?
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Can you elaborate on the distinction you're making? I've heard both terms used in different ways. Strictly in the context of the application, I'm used to a role being an end user, an administrator, etc. Personas, on the other hand, are almost always end users and are used to distinguish between different types of attitudes, skills, and priorities in the end user. –  Daniel Jan 23 at 20:30
    
I was referring to role from the perspective of work priorities. We will have administrators for user permissions but different users may have distinct objectives. For example I have 2 users RoleA and RoleB, they both have access to a reporting feature but RoleA uses it 90% of the time where RoleB needs it 5%. I assumed that distinguishing those needs was based on the role of the user. Is that accurate or is it actually describing a persona? –  Chromarush Jan 23 at 21:19
    
I think that what you are talking about is a persona - at least by my understanding of the term. Izhaki has a good answer below. –  Daniel Jan 23 at 21:34
    
Thank you! I really appreciate it! –  Chromarush Jan 23 at 22:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It is still worth developing a persona in your case, although it is likely you will only have one.

Promoting out-of-body experience

Personas are used during the design process so designers constantly have a character representing the target audience in front of them. This (hopefully) ensures that the user is always kept in mind, and that designers don't make any decisions or evaluations that are based purely on their expertise of the domain (ie, the designer sin).

Personas help the designer to step outside their own mind and enter someone else's.

Even one user is enough

It goes even further than that - one of the key recommendation in writing guides is to always consider the reader - novice writers tend to write to themselves. Even if you have a single reader (like a marker of an essay you write) you should write for that person and not for yourself.

As far as personas go, you would have no synthesis (development) to do if you only have one user, but it would still pay to create a persona for that one person - so it is always in mind.

It's not all about diversity

Personas are not only there to represent various audience groups of interest. They also include focal points that should inform design, and other highlights of user research.

For instance, a persona may include Key Do's and Don't; it may include analysis of expertise (such as technical or domain); it may include scenarios and key tasks. All of these still serve the designer during the design, regardless if the persona represents an authentic group of 5 people, or a diverse group of 15000, and regardless if there's one persona, or five.

If you look at the persona below, you'll see that even if this would be the only persona for a particular system, it can still support the designer in many ways.

An image showing a persona

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You would also be helped by doing workflows for each of the roles and then a comparison across all the roles to find the similarities and differences in uses of the platform. Your goal should be to identify differentiation in needs for input and output, and each role's purpose and goals for the interface. ie. are they just reading it, are they doing data entry... Then develop the content, language and architecture accordingly.

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