Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Higher education personas

I've been using personas on website and CMS development projects for about 5 years now. It's still a fledgeling technique at the University of Edinburgh, so I thought I'd try and find out if personas were being used by other UK universities.

A bit of a trawl using Google turned up these:
It's interesting to see all this work, and particularly that some universities are bringing in expertise from UX consultancies. It's a shame that there aren't more case studies available covering how the personas were used and whether they took root.

I think teams using personas are a lot like a child learning to ride a bike. The persona champion is like the parent running along behind, holding the child up, making sure they don't fall off. And when they inevitably do fall off, being on hand to pick them up and get them started again.

I've used personas with varying degrees of success. Some are still with us, alive and kicking after 5 years, while others faded away almost as soon as the initial project they were developed for ended.

Ultimately the success comes when a team takes the personas on and uses them on an ongoing basis. This takes effort and dedication to champion them beyond the period of their development and initial use. And this, for me, is where employing a consultant to do this work can fall down. When the consultant steps away, who keeps picking up the personas, dusting them off and pushing them front and centre when development conversations happen and decisions get made?

But when personas are used effectively and the team starts to see their value, they begin to leech into everyday conversations. I don't think there's anything more rewarding than overhearing others talking unprompted about how they think a persona would react in a particular situation or what a persona would think of a feature. That's when they really take on a life of their own.

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