The introduction to Dan Brown’s “Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning” focuses on the significance of design documents. These documents are important for three reasons: consistency, traceability and accountability, and insight. A particular document Brown focuses on is deliverables, a stand-alone document that provides context about a particular idea in the larger project.
Within a deliverable, the design team can use diagrams as a way of focusing on one particular part of the project. These diagrams cannot stand alone, they only serve as anchors that can be shared between deliverables as a way of providing context, reference points and continuity. A key piece of these design diagrams are personas (chapter 3). Personas are used to assist with the design process by creating an imagined target audience and trying to figure out what issues they might have and how to solve them. Creating personas are a part of Brown’s larger goal of this book, looking at understanding the domain, stating the problem and solving the problem.
What must be considered when creating these personas? Brown has four criteria: activities, detail, breadth and stakeholders. Design teams must keep these things in mind at all times to create accurate and effective personas. If they create unrealistic scenarios, they will be ill-prepared to handle the challenges that do arise.
There are three layers to creating a persona: establishing requirements, elaborating relationships and making ‘em human. Each of these layers adds more depth and individualism to the personas created. The first layer is the most basic information including names, sources, and distinguishing features and characteristics of each persona. From this level, more detailed information is attached, such as scenarios, quotes, photos and even personal backgrounds. The more detailed and organized the personas are, the more helpful they can be to a design team in achieving prioritization, validation and completeness.
When applying this to the humanities, what unique challenges do you think we face? With history, it is a subjective field for everybody so how can we know that the personas we are creating are an accurate reflection of the target audience when there are so many possibilities as to what they might think? How do we measure when we think we are close enough?