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Finally ditch the Persona!

Ingrid Domingues

Demographically biased personas hinders the understanding about the really important user behaviours, needs and expectations in the context of use. By dressing users in demographics and photos, personas make readers fill in with their own assumptions. If you want to accomplish intentional design – design that makes impact – it's about time you ditch the persona.

All of inUse courses here, visit Academy!

I started my career in the UX community long before the label “UX”. 1983 I started working as a developer, and ten years later I realized that I was a usability professional. At that time there were simply no educations to become that, so I succeeded by reading a lot of research papers and learning by testing pieces in my assignment, and discussing with the small number of peers there were in Sweden by that time. Remember, the internet was not yet there to help…

So, I lived and learned through the revolution of graphical interfaces, the PC, the web and now (finally!)  the growing insight that business gain is nothing than a sum of usage occasions. If users succeed, the gain can be great. When users fail, the cost is immense.

I was intrigued by Alan Cooper's book “The Inmates is Running the Asylum” when it came in 1999. I just loved the title, since I actually trained to work in mental care before considering working with digital services. But most of all i liked it because of the content, where many struggles of a UX:er were brought into the light. At the time that I read the book I had finished a research project on how to help business to describe their needs in ways that could ensure business benefits. And started outlining the idea on Impact Mapping, that saw the public light in 2002.

I was taken by great surprise on the explosion of demographic based Personas, that came as a result of Coopers suggestion. I read the book as Personas where more of user behaviours than demographics. Up to today, I meet companies that describe their users by demographically biased personas, instead of clustering user behaviours and expectations.

During the years of my practice I experienced the danger of Personas. As they give a lot of demographic descriptions they actually hinders the understanding on the only important thing, namely user bahaviours, needs and expectations in the context of use. By dressing users in demographics and photos they make readers fill in with their own assumptions, based on their knowledge. This is an intrinsic capability of the human brain that helps us a lot in everyday life, but in this case it makes us see what is not there  (WYSIATI). And that is really bad for doing intentional design.  

To succeed with designing and building for impact the Persona must be finally ditched and replaced with something similar to  what Indi Young refers to as “behavioral audience segment” or “thinking styles”.  Description on what users do, need and the context for their use.

The discussion about Personas, have been around for some years now. I simply suggest that you start using the format described in the Impact Map, that correlates to Indi Youngs thinking styles, and in addition to that, adds certain amount of clarity and the strong opportunity  to prioritize behaviours in respect to Business Impact.

The Impact Map refines the description into something we refer to as “users” or “behavioral patterns”. The impact map is centered (visually and logically) around the intended Business Impact that this (future or existing) service could bring, if designed right. Then the users are described by their behavior in their specific context of use and expectations for the solution. Or if you want to see it from a business perspective: the users are described as means to get the desired business impact. By making the description of use in this manner, it also opens up for another intrinsic part of the user description in an Impact Map, namely that users are prioritized, based on their contribution to the Business Impact. This is a very strong concept of the Impact Map, bringing lot of information to designers, developers and managers on what to spend money and time on.

The User in an Impact Map follows a pattern, This is an example (and a template for Impact Maps). Remember though, that what you see here is a polished result after research, analysis and decisions by business. To get there you will need to iterate.

A User/User Behavior is described as:

  • A number, indicating priority. A User #1 is the most important when it comes to achieving intended Business Impact. This said, when the Business Impact is not set, it is not possible (or meaningful) to give users priority. The #1 is the most important, still the user #5 can be extremely important on achieving some aspects of the desired Business Impact. That said, the prioritization is not an easy task for business, but yes, it aligns the different ways to think about the new service. In other words it is a mean to avoid lengthy discussions _after_ having started the project.
    The prioritization is done by the business, with help from UX strategists. The priority is made based on the contribution to the Business Impact. To set the numbering you weigh together three aspects: occurence in the population, activity and influence on others. And relative to the other defined user behaviours.
    Prioritization is an important, and often difficult part of impact mapping, and forces business stakeholders to discuss and agree on a common view on scope and way forward.  
  • A name, summarizing the behaviours and expectation that users show. The name is short, memorable, and easy to remember. Some examples of good names (from completely different products) are “The inexperienced help seeker”, “The focused”, “Harmony seeker” or “Need to solve this now”. The latest is actually a quote, that can either be used to give the name some life, or as the name itself.  Names that gives negative connotations are avoided, since they makes you think negative, instead of innovating. At rare occasions the user behaviors cluster into professional roles, then you can perhaps use them as name. But, what I see is that thinking beyond job roles helps people to find shared behaviors that exists regardless of roles. “Sales Manager” is the behavior of “Business responsible” that could very likely (now or in the future service) be a behaviour of some sales representatives.
  • A visualization that is never, say never, a photo of a single person. Photos tricks the brain to fill in with our own assumptions, and hinders us to take in the opportunity that this user behaviour gives us. Powerful visualizations explains the behaviour, or drivers, and could be sketchy, iconic or polished, whatever works in the business context. If you (by some reason) still want to use photos, see to it that it explains a situation where the behaviour reveals. If you (by some reason) still have people on the photos, see to it that they covers different age, gender, skin color, abilities etc. As you understand by now, the best is simple to avoid having photos with people. The same goes for iconic people, see to it that they are free from age, gender and skin color.
  • A description explaining why, when and how this user behaviour reaches for this solution. Other attributes that is important for the solution and context is described e.g. the learning and communication style, or how they navigate. Any common attributes of interest in order to reach the Business Impact is also described e.g. what they value, and what they strive to achieve.  
    If you have data for your user behaviour description, use it. However, the description should be kept short in the Impact Map, but could have a longer description elsewhere.
    The description is best done by describing a person in present tense, e.g.  “Person that…… he/she ….. Name is often, but not always….He/she prefers... A good day is when….”
  • Examples, that points out where this user behavior usually is spotted. What you use to define examples varies, based on the context for analysis. If there already are market-based personas, you should use them as examples. You will then find that one user behaviour is revealed by many personas and one persona reveals several user behaviours. Job roles, and situations are two other sets of examples that are more common than personas. In some rare occations, (as in the example) the user behaviour appears in so many contexts, so that it is better to skip the examples. 
  • Design Challenge, one sentence that explains what the service must give to the user behaviour in order to ensure that he/she is successful and satisfied. The sentence is usually written in the form “Provide [type of content, type of functions and their capability ] in order to [what we want the user to feel, think or do]
  • User Needs, what Cooper initially referred to as user goals, or a “job” (emotional, functional or social) in the jobs-to-be-done context. It is one sentence that starts “wants” when it is a user need and “must” when it is something that the user is hesitant or opposed to, but we must impose on him/her in order to succeed to reach the Business Impact. When the analysis is done, user needs usually narrows down to as few as 1 to 3, since you understand what really makes them tick, instead of describing what they said or what you observed.
    A good format for user needs is “Wants to [adjective] achieve sth, in order to [the goal for the user]. Use the strength of adjective form so that it is obvious how strong the need is, eg easy, very easy or super easy. User needs are the means for defining what and how to test a solution, so that if something is to be achieved in a supereasy way, you know what to look for in a test.

By actively avoiding demographics, user descriptions are now fit for a deeper understanding of user needs. Also, when the description is part of an Impact Map, user behaviors are prioritized, and are means for testing business impact. This is groundbreaking, still easy to achieve if you have done your user research. So - finally ditch the Persona style, and do User behavior style!  

All of inUse Academy's courses in Impact Mapping here!

Designing Empathy in Rush Hour 

Ola Nilsson

For two days inUse have been focusing on trying to shift behaviour in a public space, at the hectic plaza by the Triangeln station in Malmö. We conducted research through interviews, observations and design interventions, and tested ideas – with ballons, confetti and megaphones – for how to impact people’s behaviour. Have a look!

We are explorers and innovators within human centred design. 

This is why we took on the challenge to explore how we might shift behaviour in a public space, and positively influence the experience of that space.  

In just two days we applied our human-centered design process to a problem spot in Malmö – a busy and hectic plaza by the Triangeln station. We conducted research through interviews, observations and design interventions, and tested ideas for how to impact people’s behaviour on the plaza.

This is how we apply human centered design to physical spaces.

This activity took place during The Conference week in Malmö, well monitored by Sydsvenskan. During a packed seminar at the start of the week we shared our approaches and solicited suggestions from our audience of troublesome public spaces in Malmö that we might tackle. This was followed by an intense couple of days of research and experimentation, as well as a follow-up seminar where we shared our results and insights.


More about Human Spaces here!

Five questions to hone and sharpen your presentation

David de Léon

You are about to give a presentation. Do you know why you are presenting? Are you clear about your desired result? Have you decided what you want people to think and feel during your presentation, and, more importantly, what you want them to say and do afterwards? If your presentation makes no difference to anyone, is there any reason at all to give it?

My personal wish is that my audience goes away changed (at least to some degree). I want them to be ready to act differently in some way. The purpose of my presentation is the first thing I think about when constructing a talk, or when giving feedback on someone else’s. Again, the first question to ask is:

Question 1. What do you want to happen after your talk? What is your desired result?

When you have thought about the question, write down your answer. If you have more than one answer, then write them all down. You can certainly have more than one desired outcome. Remember that you own the purpose of your talk. That purpose can be big or small, altruistic or selfish. Perhaps you want people to say “yes” to a proposal that you are making, or perhaps you just want people to think that you are clever (or both?). You decide what it is. But decide.

Being clear about why you are presenting will improve your presentations tenfold. This is a great start, but how do you go from knowing your desired result, to achieving that result? Here are four follow-up questions that will help you track your path from purpose to result. The next question to ask is:

Question 2. Can your audience understand you? Can they follow you each step of the way?

If your audience doesn’t understand what you say, or can’t follow the flow of your argument or story, then your message will not enter into their minds. If you don’t get inside their heads you are just noise.

There are two main traps that I see speakers fall into:

  • Taking too long to give the audience the context they need to understand what a talk is about.
  • Failing to provide clear and logical transitions between the different parts of a talk.

To get your audience off to a good start, think about who they are: what they already know, and what the quickest way is that you could state your main point, thesis, question or purpose. Then look at each transition and make sure that the audience can follow along. I encourage you to start by making it overly obvious how one idea leads to the next.

If you are unsure of what your argument actually is, break your talk into 5–10 bullet points. This will reveal your structure — or lack thereof — and allow you to fine tune it.

Let’s say they understand everything you say, but do they believe it? This is the subject of the next question:

Question 3. Will your audience believe what you say?

During your talk you will tell stories, cite facts, make claims and draw conclusions. Will the audience believe you? What are the things that your audience might doubt? There are two kinds of things that they might contest: things that go against what they already believe in, and things that run counter to what they want to believe in. To win them over you must establish your credibility as a presenter and the credibility of your facts.

Your personal credibility hinges on how you conduct yourself and on your reputation. Make sure to get a good introduction before you start, and then present professionally.

As for the credibility of your facts, the willingness of people to accept them will increase if your claims are easy to understand and if you cite credible sources and evidence. Sometimes, acknowledging the audience’s scepticism can be a way of gaining their trust.

This all comes to naught if your audience feels nothing. So that is the next thing to examine:

Question 4. Will they care? Will they be engaged?

Even if your audience understands and believes you, they are not going to do anything unless they also care. What would make them care? What would make a difference to your audience?

Try to put yourself in their shoes. Look for things that would make their lives simpler and better, and for things that align with their values and the kind of people they want to be. These are all things that people care about.

Your audience will feel that you are speaking to them if they can recognise themselves in what you say. Are you solving a problem that they have, or answering a question that is on their minds? Are you (at least) entertaining? Can you surprise them? Can you rouse their emotions? These are all paths towards engagement.

We are almost there. Getting your audience past the final hurdle is the topic of the last question.

Question 5. Do they know what to do?

Your audience is now ready. They believe you and they are engaged. They will not act, however, unless it is abundantly clear to them what they should do, how to do it, and when to do it.

To make it easy for your audience to act, summarise what you want them to remember and present it in a memorable form. This can be as simple as a handful of well worded bullet points, or a well-crafted slogan. Suggest a simple first step and also a trigger for when to perform that action.

I really want you to remember the five questions and try them out. That is why I wrote this text. To help you remember them, I have summarised them below and created an acronym. The next time you are putting together a presentation, or giving feedback on a talk, see if you can remember the word “rubed.” The acronym breaks down like this:

R is for the desired result.

U is for understandable.

B is for believable.

E is for engaging — that they care.

D is for doing — the action you want them to take.

The acronym “rubed” makes me think of the word “rubbed,” but missing a “b.” It’s as if that “b” has been rubbed off… I drew you a picture. It’s at the top of this essay.

Figurer huggna i sten på romersk triumfbåge

Vem ska utveckla utvecklarna?

Jonas Söderström

”Vem ska vakta väktarna?”
Sedan romarna hamrade fram frasen på stålblankt latin – som ”Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” – har den frågan symboliserat dilemmat hur vi ska kontrollera dem som vi gett makt att bestämma över oss.
Nu behöver den uppdateras.

De som tidigare stod i fokus för romarnas fråga var just polis och militär. Så småningom kom den att tillämpas också på politiker och ledare över huvud taget. Om vi ger dem privilegiet att bestämma över oss, hur kan vi vara säkra på att de inte missbrukar förtroendet?

De senaste åren har dock en helt ny grupp av människor – på mycket kort tid – fått en oerhörd makt över allas våra liv. Teknikens snabba utveckling har givit en helt ny klass av entreprenörer inom tech, ingenjörer, programmerare och mjukvaru-utvecklare  en makt utan motstycke över det dagliga livet för miljarder människor.

Mycket av vad de åstadkommit har varit till nytta för oss. Men gradvis börjar vi nu upptäcka ett antal obehagliga bevis på att allt de gör inte enbart är välgörande.

Ta till exempel tvålautomaten som inte vill ge tvål till färgade

Eller inpasseringssystemet som menar att en kvinna inte kan vara läkare

Visst, det är bara exempel från den triviala änden av spektrat. Buggar som kan rättas enkelt.

Men vad sägs om algoritmer som missgynnar minoritesgrupper inom rättssystemet, eller ger dem sämre möjligheter till lån eller ett jobb? Eller det robotiserade bidragssystemet som felaktigt klassar svaga grupper som bedragare?

Eller datorprogrammet som ritar om valkretsar för att hitta det mest orättvisa valresultatet – men som gynnar det styrande partiet? 

Eller taxiföretagets system för att specifikt lura trafikinspektörer?

Och då har vi inte ens pratat om ”fake news”, eller hur eller hur digitala plattformar kommit att används för att organisera etnisk rensing eller provocera fram mord och överfall

Erfarenheterna får allt fler att ifrågasätta: hur kan vi vara säkra på att denna nya klass inte missbrukar den makt de tagit sig? Eller, för att vara korrekt, som vi givit dem genom att använda deras produkter.

Det är sant att få av dessa system eller tjänster skapades med onda avsikter. De skadorna som de orsakat har, med några otäcka undantag, varit oförutsedda bieffekter.

Oförutsedda – men ingalunda oförutsägbara.

I en del fall är förklaringen förmodligen en sorts blåögd tanklöshet. Men en hel del måste bottna i ett djupare o-intresse för mänskliga förhållanden. Att det finns människor med olika hudfärg i världen är uppenbart för de flesta av oss. Att skapa en sensor som inte tar hänsyn till det speglar bara värderingarna och trångsyntheten hos konstruktören. 

Och sedan har vi förstås den rena ondskan. Som tech-entreprenören som kräver att gatorna han och andra värdefulla går på måste rensas från obehagliga, fattiga människor. Eller den öppna kvinnofientligheten.

Utan en djupare förståelse för vad det är att vara människa, kommer techindustrin att fortsätta leverera produkter som skadar eller exkluderar.

Efter två årtusenden måste frågan om vem som vaktar våra väktare, som så mycket annat, uppdateras. Det nya, avgörande dilemmat för vårt samhälle är, på latin: Quis machinabitur ipsos machinatores? 

Eller på samtida svenska: Vem ska utveckla utvecklarna?

Som John Naughton skriver i The Guardian:

Now mathematics, engineering and computer science are wonderful disciplines – intellectually demanding and fulfilling. And they are economically vital for any advanced society. But mastering them teaches students very little about society or history – or indeed about human nature. As a consequence, the new masters of our universe are people who are essentially only half-educated. They have had no exposure to the humanities or the social sciences, the academic disciplines that aim to provide some understanding of how society works, of history and of the roles that beliefs, philosophies, laws, norms, religion and customs play in the evolution of human culture.
We are now beginning to see the consequences of the dominance of this half-educated elite.


Sant: Educating the Silicon Valley elite has proved expensive, som Kara Swisher skriver i New York Times.

En huvuduppgift måste därför bli att komplettera utbildningen av ingenjörer, utvecklare, systemerare: att lära dem etik, historia, psykologi. Jag vet också att det finns de som gör det idag. (Kanske är vi bättre på detta i Sverige – jo, alla exemplen ovan är ju amerikanska.) En annan är att rekryteringen till dess utbildningar måste bli mycket bredare – för att motverka den aningslösa exklusionen.

Men det är inte bara skolor som utbildar. Medier, lagar, politiker, företag ger uttryck för värderingar som påverkar och formar oss.

Humanistiska och humanitära värderingar måste återfå en mer central plats i samhället. 

Så svaret på frågan ”Vem ska utveckla utvecklarna?” måste bli: ”Vi, alla”.

PS: Typiskt nog hittade jag frasen ”Who will engineer the engineers?” i ett skönlitterärt verk: Julian Barnes ”The noise of time” (på svenska: Tidens larm) –  en berättelse om Sovjetunionen och Stalins anspråk på att omskapa hela samhället efter ”rationella” och ”vetenskapliga” principer... Naturligtvis för det gemensamma bästa

Dagens tech-entusiaster skulle ha en del att tjäna på att studera den historien.

PPS: Eftersom vi inte har något verb ”att ingenjöra” på svenska, har jag fått använda ”att utveckla utvecklare”, trots att det kan verka peka mot bara en del av den grupp det egentligen berör.

Tack till Andrew Keen (Head of Classics, Bristol Grammar School) för hjälp med latinet, och till Roland Clare som förmedlat kontakten.

Engelsk version av denna text: Who will engineer the engineers?

Introducing the fourth member of the jury… Lennart Waldenström!

Ola Nilsson

inUse is now part of ÅF. So who better to act as a member of the jury for the inUse Award than Lennart Waldenström, President of ÅF Digital Solutions? No one! Welcome to the jury, Lennart!

Register for the party on 4 October! A gala event with bubbly, networking, live artists and speakers… And best of all, it’s free!

Lennart Waldenström, what do you hope to gain as a member of the jury for the 2018 inUse Award?

“Above all to be inspired and to learn from both the entries and my fellow members of the jury.”

What do you hope to see among the entries?

“What I’m looking for is the simple and the obvious, where you kick yourself for not having thought of it yourself and the benefit is obvious.”

“It’s not just about appearances, as is the case in many other design competitions. Here, it’s about usefulness, business value and many other factors. The jury work will be a complex process.”

“I’ll be coming from the developer and business side of things, and I’ll probably want to ask a lot of questions, listen a great deal and then contribute by summarising everything.”

What are the most important issues within usability in 2018?

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how AI will contribute towards creating really useful solutions, for example through simplification, decision-making support and prediction. Of course, we’ve only seen the start of things to come, such as Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana. I think that using machine learning and AI to reduce and simplify ‘cognitive elements’ in how we use technology will be an exciting future development.”

Can you tell us about a mistake you’ve made in connection with usability, and what you learned from it?

“Reproducing an old analogue solution digitally, without eliminating the old technology’s limitations. The lesson is to return to the effect you want to achieve, and not just to copy yesterday’s solution.”


Register for the party on 4 October! A gala event with bubbly, networking, live artists and speakers… And best of all, it’s free!