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June 7, 2011

Appstravaganza – using personas

GLOBAL – Our first meeting with the developers and designers at Digia happened a couple of weeks ago now. One of the things they were keen to do was to establish our requirements for the new Nokia Conversations app. But they didn’t just want a list of things we’d like – they wanted to explore what our readers would like, too. One technique that’s often used in this part of the process is developing personas. These are made-up people who represent the expected or desired users of the app. Meet Jason, Ary and Becky after the break.

One good reason to use personas is to establish what users want to do with your app. Which bits are important to them, and which bits are just nice to have? Then you can look at the list of features that we might have in the app and start to prioritise them. While we initially thought that a 3D holographic projection of Adam reading the latest headlines might be a cool feature, it didn’t really pass the persona test. When you look at it from a user’s perspective, then being able to read the text properly and resize it finds its way to the top of the list.

Digia senior interaction designer, Petra Tarkkala, told us:

With a varied user base, it is challenging to begin defining user requirements. Personas help the design & development team to understand the goals, desires, and needs of specific types of users. They help us and our clients to be on the same page and are really useful for thinking in the user’s shoes.

Fortunately, because we ran a reader survey not so long ago, we’ve got quite a good idea of a typical Conversations reader. Here are Jason and Ary, two of the personas that we developed on the basis of that.

Jason (29) is a project manager for an IT company in the UK. He studied computer science at university, lives with his girlfriend and likes technology. He uses a PC at work, a Mac at home and possesses a number of nice gadgets – which is where most of his disposable income goes. He comes to Conversations for two main reasons: because he wants to be ‘in the know’ about the latest developments, and also in order to optimise his use of his mobile phone – a Nokia N8 – to make the most of its capabilities. While he occasionally comments, and uses Twitter and Facebook, he’s more of a reader than a writer.

Ary (20) is a technology student in Indonesia, who’s also working as an intern for a media company. He’s got big dreams of becoming rich and maybe starting his own web-based business in coming years. He’s a bit of a technology fanatic and reads all the leading tech blogs. He’s quite an avid commentator, too. There’s nothing he likes more than being able to answer someone else’s question, which he can do quite a lot of the time. He’s also very confident about his views, and isn’t worried about pointing out when someone is wrong. His main technology is his laptop, which goes everywhere with him, as does his Nokia E7 – a birthday present from his parents.

Then we thought about Becky, one of those readers who don’t visit this site too often, but we’d like it if she did a bit more.

Becky (34) is a freelance writer in the US. She’s married with two young daughters and works from home. Her writing career is going quite well – mainly writing about parenting and social issues. She stumbled into Conversations when we wrote a series of posts about mobile phone use in Africa. It’s those broader topics that she’s interested in, rather than the latest device and app releases. She doesn’t actually care too much about the technology she uses, so long as it works well.

Becky will be a lot harder to please than the first two. They like a regular diet of technology news and know what they’re getting from Conversations. They’ll be expecting all the latest bells and whistles on the app, but at least we’ve got a reasonable chance that the latest content will be interesting to them. Becky, on the other hand, is probably only interested in a few stories a month. The challenge will be bubbling-up recommendations from our older stories on deeper, wider topics than the day-to-day fare.

If you’d like to read more about using personas, there’s a good document on Forum Nokia that goes into a little more detail. In the meantime, what would you consider essential and nice-to-have in a Conversations app?

image credit: pietro_C