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Using Personas and Make Tools

The approach I use combines a few concepts into a user requirements workshop event. I should come up with a snazzy consulting name for this—playing with toys is what my son calls it. At the outset, I'm interested in goals, both for the organization and the individual. Goals are interesting for a number of reasons; one is that they transcend the tasks that users perform and pull together both technical and business angles. Tasks are the servants of goals, and discovering what the goals are should be the first step. I take personas or user roles through user stories that describe how they interact with features.

One method I use to help users develop their features and user stories is to use make tools. This is an approach that encourages users to design the solution using visual representations of ideas, goals, feelings, and behaviors. They are called make tools because the user is making or creating the solution. This differs from a classic requirements-gathering approach in which users "say" what they want—this might happen in the context of focus group. Visual tools—such as pictures, objects, and models—fit particularly well within Web development, which is a medium in which experience is everything. You could say we are not designing for users; instead, we are designing with users.

Combining persona maps with make tools, I hold a workshop with the following outline:

  • Brainstorming high-level goals

  • Creating and decide on key personas

  • Breaking into groups, taking personas

  • Fleshing out personas: their goals, features, scenarios and behaviors

  • Reporting back and refining if required

  • Summarizing a feature list

  • Plotting features on a value map

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