Shopping for Usability: Personas and Scenarios

Websites have standards. Take, for example, the visual cues we take for granted on a variety of websites. Online retailers always place the shopping cart button in the top right of the page. That’s standard. Comment sections are at the bottom of articles. Again, simple and standard. Beneath a well-designed site, however, lies a layer of design architecture that’s been around since before the web, and those are personas and scenarios.

Introduced in 1988 by UX guru Alan Cooper, these terms refer to simple descriptions of your user, their goals, and a design that fits. Personas embody the users themselves, addressing the whys and hows of their needs on an individual level. Scenarios are the ways and means of fulfilling those needs.

Say there’s a kid named Jules, and Jules is just crazy for high-end ties and handkerchiefs. An online men’s store may specialize in men’s fashion accessories, and they recognize the “Jules” persona as their main clientele. From this persona arises a scenario that makes it as convenient and efficient as possible for the many Jules to order exactly what they want.

Personas and scenarios have been in the program/website designer’s toolkit for a while, but creating a good set requires a great deal of work. Freelance designers don’t have the time or resources to research and draft the complex procedures required for storing user profiles or processing online returns.

This being the Internet, the kindly people at Human Factors International have launched the UX Marketplace, a kind of online bazaar for savvy designers to buy and sell a variety of personas and scenarios (as well as a variety of other UX objects) for projects both big and small.

As a bonus, the UX Marketplace could help establish further standards in the UX community by allowing the designers themselves to decide which of the products are worthy of their attention, and more importantly, their dollars.

UX Marketplace’s goal is to become a resource for web professionals in the truest sense of the word: the majority of UX objects on sale at UX Marketplace are not for the humble blogger; these are for the professional website industry that relies on rock-solid architecture on a large scale.