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1

Tools for Information Architects

The Information Architecture Institute has a nice section full of tools for Information Architects and Interaction Designers. You will find document and wireframing templates, process maps posters, presentations, introduction brochures, and other tools to help you in your practice.

Links:

  • The tools section at IA Institute

Henrik Olsen - August 25, 2005

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See also: Tools (49)  Wireframing and prototyping (29) 


 

2

Personas and decision-making scenarios

To Shannon Ford, personas are employed to better understand what users want to accomplish and to develop design solutions that help meet the goals and needs of the group they portray. They help avoid the common practice of trying to design for all users.

Personas have their foundation in real people, but are never based on any on individual. They are created to represent a set of characteristics found across many individuals, and are derived from qualitative research with actual users.

The best personas will also go the extra step to describe key behaviors such as a decision making process, an information browsing approach, or a shopping mode - the drivers that affect how people approach a given solution. In her article you'll find a few samples of home improvement customers and their decision-making process.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - March 01, 2005

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3

Personas doesn't have to be rocket science

Many researchers feel that personas (user archetypes) should be very accurate and based on extensive research. Don Norman disagrees with this philosophy. In his opinion, the purpose of personas is to add empathetic focus to the design.

Personas can be created quickly without real data and employed without much background information and attention to detail. As soon as we start discussing products in terms of their impact upon individuals instead of features and attributes of the product, it makes it easier to be human-centred.

Links:

  • The article Ad-Hoc Personas & Empathetic Focus

Henrik Olsen - November 25, 2004

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4

Personas a la Microsoft

In the article Personas: Practice and Theory, John Pruitt and Jonathan Grundin share their experience gained by using personas in two Microsoft projects. They describe and illustrate their use of personas and outline a psychological theory that explains why personas are more engaging than other methods that tries to explore users' needs.

According to the authors, personas is a powerful complement to other usability methods, which can help a team focus attention on its target audience and their work context. It can aid in design and development decisions, and make assumptions about the target audience and decision-making criteria more explicit.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - June 02, 2004

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5

Toolkit for creating personas

George Olsen has developed a persona toolkit, which can help you build detailed profiles of users, their relations to a product (e.g. a website), and the context in which they use a product. The toolkit is pretty extensive, but intended to be based on a pick-and-choose approach.

George Olsen also gives advice on how to collect information. Ideally, personas should be based on interviewing and direct observation, but you can also get useful information from alternative sources, such as domain experts, research, and artefacts that reveal information about the users' context.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - April 04, 2004

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See also: Tools (49) 


 

6

Personas and the customer decision-making process

The Q3 2003 issue of GUUUI features a case study showing how the use of personas can help us capture the nature of online customers and design for their needs and concerns, as they progress through the customer decision-making process.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - July 01, 2003

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See also: Cases and Examples (12) 


 

7

Personas according to Kim Goodwin

Personas are sets of representative user archetypes we can use to help guide us in design decisions. Director of Design at Cooper, Kim Goodwin, has written two excellent articles on what personas are and how to create them.

Some highlights:
- Start with the right kind of research, such as observations and interviews of users
- Focus on the information that is critical for design, such as workflow, behaviour patterns, goals, environment, and attitudes of the persona
- Avoid false precision, which has no evidence in your research - Keep your personas to the minimum number required to illustrate key goals and behaviour patterns
- Add life to personas and describe them in narrative form, but don't get caught up in personal details

Links:

  • Perfecting Your Personas
  • Getting from Research to Personas: Harnessing the Power of Data

Henrik Olsen - June 16, 2003

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8

User research techniques in comic book form

Dan Willis has created a condensed overview of some of the core techniques used in information architecture. The descriptions are in a comic book form and serve as entertaining reminders of some of our development options. Willis one-pagers cover sitepath diagramming, topic mapping, free listing, card sorting, and personas.

Links:

  • IA Classics: Tools of the Trade in Comic Book Form

Henrik Olsen - April 28, 2003 - via Usability Views

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See also: Site and flow diagramming (3)  Posters (5)  Card sorting (8)  The design process (13)  Usability testing (26) 


 

9

Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web

In the introduction, Christina Wodtke claims that her book on IA isn't for people doing IA for a living "most of it will probably be old hat." It might be true, that her book won't make a revolution for the IA field, but it is very enlightening to read about Wodtke's practical use of the techniques and principles of IA. And there's no armchair theory here. Everything is backed up by cases, examples, and practical advice on how to make everything work in the real world.

The book concentrates on traditional IA practices, such as:
- User research
- Organising content
- Card sorting
- Personas, scenarios and task analysis
- Site and flow diagramming
- Wireframing and storyboarding

At the end of the book, you'll also find some she-devil tricks on how to persuade you boss and co-workers to do things your way. Highly revealing - my girlfriend is never going to fool me again.

Links:

  • The book at amazon.com
  • The book at amazon.co.uk

Henrik Olsen - November 14, 2002

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See also: Books (31)  Wireframing and prototyping (29)  Card sorting (8)  Site and flow diagramming (3)  Requirement Analysis (11)  Usability testing (26)  The design process (13) 


 

10

Personas as real people representatives

In this article Jonathan Grudin and John Pruitt discuss the concept of personas and scenarios. While Alan Cooper's personas are based on anecdotes and on appeals to reason, the authors argue for a more realistic approach. Personas should be based on real people and evolve in response to field studies, focus groups, interviews, observation, usability studies, and so on. This way, personas turn into a powerful means of communicating feedback from real people to the design team.

In their opinion, paticipatory design, which Grudin has been advocating for many years, is less effective in commercial mass-market product development, because finding representative participants is a challenge. But personas can bring the same level of engagement with users, empathy, and commitment to mass-market development projects.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - August 15, 2002

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