Editing Modernism in Canada


June 10, 2011

Thinking through User Personas

In Meg Timney’s Digital Editions course at DHSI 2011, one of the concepts that was new to me was the development of user personas in planning a web-based project.  For many of us, the users that we want to ideally attract need to be tempered by the users who actually may use the site.  We need to design for multiple audiences, and we always need to be thinking (in my mind, anyway) about our most basic, least informed reader.  We need to be sure the site is user- friendly.  It is going to be a pedagogical tool, and as a result, we need it to be intuitive enough and accessible enough that even the “Bobbie Le Blaw”‘s of the world will be connected to our work.  By working through this process, I was forced to think more about user needs and competencies.

I have made this (kind of silly) user persona document as an initial way to think through our site as it will be used, instead of just how I would like it to be used.  Maybe this kind of thinking will be a helpful way for you to map out your own audiences, and acknowledge for yourself some user needs you had never thought of before.


User 1:  Disengaged Student User

Bobbie Le Blaw is a fourth year student in a second year class.  He majors in sociology, but thought he could take a couple of bird courses to coast his way to the finish line.  He is not particularly familiar with the field, and has no interest in becoming more informed.  He will come to the site if it is for an assignment approximately 12 hours or less before the due date.  He needs to access information quickly, and is way too impatient to read instructions or engage in a multi-step process.  He will click on two or three icons, want to copy a selection of text, and then get back to his twitterfeed.

User 2:  New Scholar

Liz Lemler loves poetry and F.R. Scott.  Ever since she read Sandra Djwa’s biography of F.R. Scott, she has wanted to know more about McGill Fortnightly, Preview and First Statement.  She has decided  to use these primary materials in relation to the published poems in books and anthologies to construct a first class final essay.  She has never looked at a periodical online before, but she is eager to please.  She wants the guideposts clearly laid out, and an FAQ and about this page.  Because she always strives to get an A, she also seeks out links to other secondary sources and biographical material from related projects.  But, since this is all new to her, she needs the steps to be clear and straightforward.

User 3:  Seasoned Scholar

Dr. Spacesuit is an Assistant Professor who is working on his second monograph.  Having recently published a book on Gender, Modernism and Dirty Socks in Canada, he plans to extend this framework to other forms of soiled laundry.  Already familiar with digital technology, he is interested in searching specifically for literary references to discarded or filthy clothing, and textile items that retain harsh odours.  Having developed his own set of keywords, Dr. Spacesuit wants to used advanced search features so that he can compile a database of these references across genres in music, film, poetry and drama.

User 4:  French Scholar

Mme Histoire is shocked to learn that a group of English Candians have developed a robust website about Quebecois periodicals.  The images of the magazine are in French, as are the transcriptions, but she is disappointed to find that the surrounding content is in English.  She has a passing knowledge of English, but as her second language, she relies heavily on Google Translate to navigate the website.  She likes consistency and icons that are repetitive to allow her to navigate the site without fluent English.  If she could print off the images with ease, she would like to make a handout or slideshow for teaching.

(With thanks to i-stockphoto.com for images)

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