UX playbook: Real world user exercises

4 min read
Margaret Kelsey
  •  Oct 29, 2015
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Users are full of surprises. And they have a way of finding confusing spots in a product even if your team meticulously planned and designed it.

That’s why our very own Clark Wimberly joined us for a webinar to walk us through a number of fun and challenging exercises aimed at keeping users happy.

Watch the full recording below, or read on for our short recap on Clarks’s tips from the first section of his presentation.

Challenges when doing UX

There are several challenges when doing UX—the first being that there isn’t always a designated UX process. Sometimes, you’re treated like you’re wasting time and focusing on little things that no one will care about.

The truth is, you’ll probably have to fight for UX changes and considerations. While people think you’re just arguing and splitting hairs, remember that fighting for users always pays dividendsTwitter Logo.

Clark went over 4 sections in his talk—personas, storyboarding, user testing, and prototyping—and included exercises and homework for each section. Here, we’re only going to focus on his first section—personas—but I encourage you to watch the video above to hear the rest.


Clark says that a persona is a representation of a user that’s usually—and hopefully—based on data. It’s a mental model and tool to help with the rest of the process.

Personas give you a cast of characters to test your design against. After all, while design is sort of subjective like art, it’s also scientific, since we can test it against user behavior.

Personas allow you to focus on the specific somebody instead of the generic anybody.Twitter Logo It’s hard to please everyone in the world—personas allow you to design for a smaller audience.

It does more than just help you understand your user, it also helps you frame discussions with your team in a way that you can’t without them. Personas allow you to share (or learn) user-centered knowledge with the entire team.

And these conversations can—and should—happen across different departments in the business. Clark says at his previous company, Zebra, the folks in the call center would know different things about the users that Clark wouldn’t know, and since Clark built the website, he was privy to information about the users that the call center didn’t know. Using personas to frame a conversation allowed them to have better conversations about their users.

What does a persona look like?

Personas are a bit nebulous. They’re more of an idea than a specific cards or design. But they usually consist of the following:

  • Name
  • Picture
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Job
  • History
  • Goals

It’s important to remember that personas aren’t the same thing as demographics.Twitter Logo You aren’t designing for 18-34 year old moms, you’re designing for Susan, who has 2 kids and lives in Boston.

You can include various bits of information that’s helpful for your product. For example, at Zebra, Clark’s team included information about what the personas drove and how many tickets they had.

“Personas should be who you want to convert, not who you’re currently easily converting.”

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Clark uses InVision’s Boards to create his personas. He drags and drops easily, and takes notes during discussions. There are infinite ways to create personas, but you should treat setting up personas similar to how you set up a brand style guide or content requirements. It should be a tangible artifact in the same way.

Personas should be challenging—they should be who you want to convert rather than who you’re currently easily converting. Use them to figure out how your user acts and behaves—and ultimately how they’ll act and behave with your product.

As Alan Cooper said:

“Widening your target doesn’t improve your aim. To create a product that must satisfy a broad audience of users, logic will tell you to make it as broad in its functionality as possible to accommodate the most people. Logic is wrong.

When you design for your primary persona, you end up delighting your primary persona and satisfying your secondary persona(s). If you design for everyone, you delight no one.Twitter Logo That is the recipe for a mediocre product.”

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