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Integ121exercises | Exercise Personas

Personas, Extreme Users, Storyboards


"Design is about people, not things."

-- Tom Dair, Smart Design, as quoted by US First Lady, Michelle Obama, speaking at the Cooper Hewitt Design Awards.

In the absence of identified users, designers tend to design for themselves.

Sometimes when thinking about the people for whom we're designing, rather than using aggregate data -- average age, average height, average gender -- it's useful to develop composite personas: fictional representatives of your users, to help in formulating and evaluating design choices.They usually take the form of Average and Extreme Users.

In some design shops, they create 3D cutouts to represent their personas, and make them part of the design team.

Examples of Average User Personas

Wendy Dayends, 44, Departmental Secretary

Wendy works in the Davis Centre but parks in Lot O, north of Optometry. She walks to and from her car twice a day, usually carrying (or dragging) "take-home" work. Wendy has worked at the University since 1997, and is amazed by the amount of change that has occured in that time. She sometimes brings her two school-age children to campus for Staff Association events.

Lucien DeSkuys, 65, Art Professor

Professor DeSkuys has been at the University since sometime in the 1980's -- and either can't remember or refuses to reveal the exact date. He walks from the #7 bus stop at South Campus Hall to East Campus Hall every morning, and picks up the same bus outside the Davis Centre during the "4:30 rush". He often bemoans how noisy and crowded the campus has become since the "old days", and hates being called a "curmudgeon".

Molly Denim, 18, First Year Undergrad

Molly arrived on campus in September, and is still finding her way around the campus. Her Independent Studies courseload takes her to nearly every building on campus. She sometimes has trouble finding her way around because of the number of construction sites she encounters. She usually walks to campus from her shared house in Lakeshore, but takes the bus home when a night class ends at 10:00pm

Luke Vorme, 23, Graduate Student

Luke is working on a master's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He sometimes spends 18 hours a day in the same lab, only popping out to visit the washroom or the coffee shop. When he is done for the day, he walks home to the Phillip Street Co-op.

Examples of Extreme User Personas

Extreme users are those outside of the average for the context of the design. They may represent those for whom you need to design "in case of", or they may be users whose needs, when met, represent an ideal that will satisfy all users.

Jocelyn Ferposishen, 28, Disability Co-ordinator

Jocelyn works as an advisor for the University's Office for Person with Disabilities. As a wheelchair user, she has first-hand knowledge of the trials that others face when negotiating the campus' facilities, paths and unintentional barriers. Jocelyn enjoys the variety and diversity of University life, but sometimes wishes that Universal Design was in the "Primary Design Directive" and not part of the "Afterthought of Remedial Effort".

Anita Ryder, 33, Grand River Transit Driver

In the five years that Anita has driven the #7, #9 and #13 routes, she figures she's stopped in front of the Davis Centre well over a thousand times, and guesses she's spent more time there than most undergraduates. She's always watching people as they stand in the cold, or the wet or the heat, and worries when they run across Ring Road for a bus, only to discover that it's not the one they were expecting, or that it's going the wrong direction, or that it's full from an earlier stop on campus. Anita thinks that transit could be done much better at uWaterloo, but acknowledges she may have a personal -- and professional -- bias on the matter.

Joe "Blue" Labatt, 21, Fourth Year Student

Joe takes the bus every day, the result of losing his license in a DWI incident last year. Now free of the responsibility of car ownership, he has seized the opportunity to visit the Bombshelter every night, leaving a trail of minor vandalism when he heads home.

"Skeeter" Panther-Dragon, 15, Skateboarder

Skeeter isn't a student at uWaterloo, but values the campus landscape for the tricks and runs they afford. Most people don't know him by name, preferring to address him as "Stop that, you darn kid!"


Storyboards are like a skit you'd act out to illustrate a problem or solution, but they're drawn and written, rather than performed.

Like comics, storyboards are illustrated sequences that explain a problem that needs to be solved, or a solution that's yet to be implemented. They follow a user through an experience, showing them, what they see, how they react.

Taken from the realm of motion pictures and animation, storyboards help others understand your design choices, and help you understand the people and problems that your design must deal with.

Today's Exercise

Discuss the users that will use the space you're working with on campus. Develop "persona" profiles for at least two Average Users and two Extreme Users

Think about how your personas will interact with the space, and with one another. What will be their experience entering, using, leaving the space?

Develop at least one storyboard to describe an interaction within the space.


-- Main.pdmckone - 2011-02-08