Personas? Yes… influence group thinking!

Jason Fried from 37signals argues against the use of Personas.

Personas don’t talk back. Personas can’t answer questions. Personas don’t have opinions. Personas can’t tell you when something just doesn’t feel right.

This is a pretty sketchy definition of what personas are supposed to do as a tool: The foremost reason for personas is to have people from all departments think about their product from a customer perspective and with a mindset that can be shared. Personas are not meant to “talk back” – they are meant to align imagination and create labels for »common thinking«.

It makes a difference if people talk their ideas pretending to be someone else or not. Personas drive positive groupthinking. It also forces to anticipate users. It also makes deriving marketing stories from that easier.

Design for discovery

One of the most interesting topics for information architecture is search. There are ways to find, explore, browse and discover things in digital domains. The value of information increases with the possibility of being found. So design for findability becomes the most important strategy to increase the value of information.

One of the distinct experts in the field of Information Architecture is Peter Morville. He gave an interesting one-hour talk at Google about »Ambient Findability and the Future of Search«:

Peter Morville @ Google Tech Talks, June 21, 2007

He talks a lot about the problem of search in general (he is speaking at a search engine company). How to enable better search and findability is a question of a) metadata and b) representation.

It is the representation aspect of searching and finding, that is still a huge area for design innovations. While improving the Google search result page may be too difficult, there are a lot of very specific problems where searching and navigating an information domain gets a very interesting and particular design issue.

A designer needs a good understanding of the fact that users have different approaches of locating things depending on

  • the nature of the information,
  • the structure and relations,
  • the quantity of data,
  • their habit of solving things systematically and
  • the prior knowledge about the domain.

Naturalism vs. explicitness

There constantly is a discussion about making the computer feel more “natural” to the user. I do think that this approach led to the graphical user interface we are all used to today and it is philosophically the right approach to deal with technology. But I also do believe technology is not yet ready to allow “natural” interaction in most occasions.

If you don’t believe me this video will hopefully bring this discussion to an end:

And don’t miss this Second Life parody:

Former Microsoft employee switched

Here is a little story of a former Microsoft employee that switched to MacOS X:

I worked for Microsoft for eight years. I’m a long time Windows loyalist. […] Now that I can see them side by side, it’s obvious that the Macintosh provides a brighter display experience than the PC. It’s a more aesthetically pleasing visual experience. It’s less cluttered, and feels less stressful to use than Windows. The Mac just doesn’t get in your way the way that Windows does. […] Apple’s innovation will be an inspiration and guide to Microsoft employees for some time to come.