The User is Always Right:
A practical guide to creating and using personas for the web
Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar
This is a book drawn from the experience of having created many personas for a wide range of different organisations. More than that, the authors have clearly been creating great personas that have had real impact on the websites they support.
In a very practical way, the book works through all of the core aspects of personas. How they work, when to use them, the benefits of personas and what they look like in practice. This is all written in a friendly and informal style that makes the book an easy and enjoyable read.
For me, the greatest value was the unique approach to the fundamental methodologies behind creating personas. Too often, personas are simply the sum total of the opinions and assumptions of the design or web team. Tackling this head on, this book provides three different ways of creating personas:
- qualitative personas
- qualitative personas with quantitative validation
- quantitative personas
For the first time (as far as I’m aware), this brings together two very different approaches: qualitative research based on interviews and observation; and quantitative research based on surveys and usage data. The authors’ overall methodology provides real answers on when to use field research, when to conduct surveys, and how to combine the two sets of results. The end product are personas that have much greater rigour and impact.
Best of all, there are extensive samples and examples throughout the book of real personas, actual user research data, and analysis spreadsheets. These give a very clear idea of how the recommended approaches work in practice.
In summary, this is a must-have book for web teams tackling the redesign of complex sites, or for user-centred designers seeking more rigorous methodologies when creating personas. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
Overall score: 10/10