Personas are an important part of usability testing. Projects that are serious about usability testing need to have a collection of personas that are representative of their users. By using personas, a project can more easily avoid adding features “because it is cool” and instead can discuss new features or interface changes in a user-focused way. “We need to help ‘Stephanie’ … does this change help her?” Or “How does this feature help ‘Stephen’?”
Different projects will create different types of personas. For example, a programmer’s editor like GNU Emacs or GNOME Builder might only include personas for software developers and testers. A graphics tool like GIMP or Inkscape might choose to create personas for graphics professionals, photographers, website designers.
For a general-purpose system like GNOME, which aims to support all kinds of users, defining the personas may be more difficult. You need to consider *all* of the people who would use GNOME.
One way to define personas for GNOME is to break down the users into categories. For example: users of different ages, and users of different skill levels. This presents you with an x-y problem.
I write about this in more detail on my blog, on creating personas.
How you group the ages, and how you group the experience levels, is a project decision. Do you choose the simple case of “beginner/moderate/expert” users? How do you group ages? You could group ages by “generation”: Millennial ages 11-31, GenX ages 31-51, Boomers ages 51-69, and so on. Or you could use elementary-age students, junior high & high school students, college students, post-college ages 22-31, etc.
This gives you a grid in the x-y problem, and you just need to write a persona for each box on that grid:
- someone between ages 11-31 who is a Beginner user
- someone between ages 11-31 who is a Moderate user
- someone between ages 11-31 who is an Expert user
- someone between ages 31-51 who is a Beginner user
…and so on.
Don’t forget to be inclusive and representative of gender and ethnicity.
But for this exercise in Outreachy, we only need a few personas. Let’s pick an “average” user with “typical” knowledge about computers (not an expert, not a beginner). Gina’s “Mark” persona is an excellent persona to use in this usability testing project. “Mark” will give us a base for writing usability scenarios and scenario tasks that are generally applicable to other users.