Working with Contextual Personas

Personas is a method used in software development to extend the empathy that software developers have for their users. Usually 3 to 5 personas are defined based on data that has been gathered about the users of one particular system. The data about the users is analysed and a description of 3 to 5 typical users are made based on the data analysis. Often a photo is used to illustrate the characteristics of the personas and sometimes the personas are even made life-size and placed around the developers, so the developers remember the users of their system, while taking decisions about the system they are developing. So the aim is that the personas are used to help developers remembering the users and taking their needs and expectations into consideration when developing a particular product, system or service. The persona descriptions focus on explaining how a persona will use ONE particular system.

But, results from observations on how the digital work environment is for many users have shown that it is common that users in health care and administrative work use up to 20 systems during one day. Changing from one software system to another can add to the cognitive load that the users have, especially, if the user interface of the systems varies a lot. To help developers understand the complexity of the digital work environment of users, we defined a variation of the persona method called: Contextual Personas. The number of systems that a person uses during a day is one of the factors mentioned in the contextal persona description. Additionally, we have added the factors: control, social demands and support. The description includes how much control the user has on their work environment, how much support the users get from the organisation and co-workers, and how much social demands there are. An example of one contextual persona is shown in the blog.

In the STRIA project, we will analyse changes that can be done to the Contextual persona method and particularly focus on how these can be used in heath care and administrative work environments.


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