Tutorial 3   Create User Personas

In this tutorial you use the People Board to define 'personas' representing students, parents, or other people who will engage with your design.


Introduction to "user Personas"

Here is the dilemma: every human is a unique and complex being. If you created a full profile of every student the way we did with your team in Tutorial 1, you would face an overwhelming logistical challenge - how do we keep track of everyone and how do we design for everyone?

A more achievable process, which the kit facilitates, is to look for shared attributes or characteristics of people, and design with these in mind. The way you can do this with the kit is inspired by a well established field known as "UX". 

"UX" stands for "user experience". The idea is that the designer (you) needs to constantly think about the experience of the people they are designing for. In a school contexts, this means students (and potentially parents). In "UX", the problem of human complexity is made more manageable through the creation of fiction personas. Each persona embodies certain needs, goals, or other attributes that become a guiding reference point for the design.

Apart from anything else, this approach avoids the pitfall of pigeon holing or stereotyping "learning styles". Instead, your fictional personas encourage you to have a repertoire of strategies and spaces that are ready to satisfy the repertoire of evolving student needs.

In Tutorial 6 - 'Personalise the Journey' you will encounter the Checkpoint card, which provides a strategy for figuring out the evolving needs of your actual students in real time. Does a student need to reflect right now, or do they need expert input, or to build/apply with what they know? You use the People card to pre-empt and resource some of these needs, and the Checkpoint card in the moment to see what the needs really are - even if they turn out to be not what you pre-emptively planned for. 

As a general rule the more time you invest in your People personas and Checkpoint mechanisms, the less time you'll lose and stress you'll suffer from designs that simply don't work.

How many personas?

We suggest between 2 and 5 to start off with. You might have 3 student personas and 2 parent personas. 

Extremes are OK

One rule of thumb: it's okay to have 1 or 2 "extreme" personas, even if their attributes are only sometimes actually manifested or are only reminiscent of a few students or parents. This is because designs often stand or fall with the extremes of human experience and behaviour. If just one or two students or parent have an extremely grumpy moment, and your design is not prepared for that, the consequences can be dramatic! 


Steps to Follow


Step 1 decide how much time you're willing to invest in your personas

Here are examples of different levels of depth in your strategy:

  • ultra-easy - create fictional personas on the spot from your own existing knowledge
  • medium - sit down with various students (or parents or others) and ask a series of questions (such as those below). 
  • difficult - gather a broad range of information using a range of practices: systematic observation, interviews, surveys, etc


Step 2 decide what themes you want to target in your investigation

Are they open ended or do you have particular questions to tackle? See examples below:


Open-Ended Student Scaffold

Below are two alternative scaffolds for the themes to explore in your personas. They are intended to generate global empathy and insight into the complex lives, passions and needs of students. They might not yield specific enough results to drive your design, but are a great place to start.

persona easy alternative.JPG

Targeted Student Scaffold

Here is an example of a more specific persona scaffold. This is taken from the real design of a Year 8 French Project-Based Learning Unit (case study here). The program had to cater for 160 different students. The "Mountain Top" was going to consist of a storybook written in French, gifted to a Kindy child from our school for Christmas. Before we built out the unit, we ran a few ad-hoc student focus groups, and discovered that this Mountain Top was only going to engage 60/% of the students. We used this insight to create a "Matrix" of Mountain Top alternatives, all involving a story written in French, and had a much better design as a result. 

Parent Scaffold

In many contexts, a successful design has to engage parents too, and can be really vulnerable if a critical parent opposes some new innovation.

Here is a scaffold to get you thinking about how you might built out a parent persona. It is relatively focused - a more open-ended scaffold might be a better place to start. 


Step 3 Place your Personas on the People Board

When you first build out your personas you may find you need a great deal of space - first to keep notes of your interviews and observations, and then to create well-rounded detailed personas. You might use a large Post It note or an A4 page to start with.

At some point you need to crystallise your persona with a few brief notes that will be manageable as you design.

On the People board surround each person card with these simple notes. On the Person card write the person's name (give your fictional persona a name) and whether they are a teacher, student, parent or other. 

In Tutorial 5 and Tutorial 7 you will move these person cards over to your other boards.