Joanna Widzer, Systems Librarian at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), described how NLM used data -driven personas in the selection of a new content management system (CMS). She began by reviewing the characteristics of personas, fictional characters that are realistic, evidence-based, goal-driven, and designed to encourage discussion. They are a tool for improving the user experience. They are not a list of statistics about users (demographics aren’t enough), an entire audience in one character, a guarantee of success, the sole driver of your program, made up, or ghosts.
Personas are useful when you do not know who your users are. They help to bring users to life and help drive decisions about how to design products, and they also help to keep the user at the center of the decision process. Uses for personas include fixing issues with products and improving them, developing scripts for usability testing and selecting participants in studies, and resolving disputes among the developers and management (i.e. eliminating office politics). Features of personas include a name, photo, narrative description, use case ( to put character in situation with product), quote, motivations for use, and pain points
NLM’s website had 25,000 pages and about 85 web contributors. A new CMS was needed, so they created some personas. Here is one of them that illustrates typical persona. It was named Catarina.
To create the persona, the developers used system data, help tickets, emails, and analytics. They included qualitative data from interviews and surveys and interviews with stakeholders (content managers, the web team, and developers). and developed core questions to formulate a picture of the persona. They especially wanted to include top tasks the user would need to perform and emotional reactions to the product. A team was assembled in a conference room with a whiteboard to develop questions, involve some staff, and figure out goals, which led to the final creation of the persona.