Work Environment Personas

In the STRIA project we have chosen to study the three most popular methods for collaborating and understanding users in software projects. These are the methods: personas, which describe typical users; a form of user testing called think-aloud method; and a method called heuristic evaluation, where rules of thumb for interface design are considered. In the STRIA project two researchers, professor Åsa Cajander and associate professor, Marta Larusdottir will lead the work.

Personas are written to extend the empathy that IT professionals have for users. Typically there are three to five personas defined, that have names, a description of their daily tasks, their preferences and needs. Personas are made based on data gathered from users on their background, their needs and their preferences for the software system to be developed. Various types of personas have been defined and a process to work with personas. For more information on that, see:

Note that typically, personas are made to support the development of ONE system, and therefor the focus when writing the persona is to describe this persons interaction with only this particular system.

In the STRIA project we want to help IT professionals to include the “bigger picture” of the users by suggesting changes to the traditional way of defining personas. That is each user uses several systems, which is illustrated in the featured image in this blog. In this blog we will explain how we aim to do that. This is the second blogs in the series of three. The other blogs explain the two other methods: user testing and heuristic evaluation.

Including Work Environment Aspects into Personas Descriptions

In the STRIA project we will focus on IT systems in health and medical care. Many of these systems cause both physical and psychosocial work environment problems, but this is rarely considered when developing computer systems. We plan to conduct workshops with users in healthcare and in administrative work. We will also we interview the users on their work environment. We will map the digital work environment in health care and in administrative work and look at how the latest technology affects the working environment. We plan to look more closely at automation and artificial intelligence. The results of these studies will be used to make modifications on the traditional personas method. We will make a process for  including the work environment aspects of the personas. These modifications will be tried out with students and IT professionals. We will also make educational material, so the IT professionals can learn how to use the new methods.

“I think IT professionals often focus on the system they are building and forget that the typical users often use more than 20 computer systems each day. The IT professionals can get a better understanding of the work environment of the users, if confronted with various persona descriptions that include the whole work environment for the users. In the healthcare domain this could be personas, with various roles, like nurses, doctors and assistants. We have seen that nurses sometimes have to run from one room to another to use various software systems, and this add a lot of complexity to their daily tasks”, Marta concludes.

(This is the second in a series of three blog posts.)

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