Architecture and Audiences

How does one do research into the goals and needs of users? What would documentation look like? What would be a good process to validate early efforts to define requirements for a User-Centered perspective? And, since all good design is iterative, what process would be used for continuous improvement?


Who are the users?

What are the attributes of an abstract user?

It is not always easy to envision the perfect abstract user. First, abstractions are not often engaging. They do not make the creative design process come alive.

image: self-centered user

An effective technique is to create "Personas" - a set of representative users to help understand who might use this new system. And, why.

Some attributes of a Persona might include:

  • Slight biographic description
  • Background knowledge and computer skills
  • Usage context
  • Goals and desired results
  • Frequency of use



Focus Groups and beyond

How are Personas developed? A frequent answer is to start with the client's ideas - usaully a source of insight.

There is, of course, no substitute for actual conversations with live users. And, thus the need for focus groups.

image: page of Braille

Focus groups are valuable in that they not only illuminate collections of representative users, they challenge assumptions that have formed in the minds of experts.

Documentation developed in focus groups is used not only to clarify requirements, but also to note changes in the intended audience over time: a vital factor in the design of the next release.