Persona and user centred design

Slide1.JPGI was initially worried about my ability to create the persona, as I feel my technological knowledge is limited and mostly self-taught. When I left school, computers were unusual and mobile phones required a suitcase to carry them. Smartphones, laptops and tablets were unheard of. However, I feel I have embraced new technology and have done my best to teach myself its use, utilising the popular “Dummies” books, You-Tube and the help function on my computer, together with advice from friends and colleagues. Technology has enhanced my life: from using Google Maps when I am lost, to asking Google to settle an argument.

Since returning to study, my use of technology has increased even more. I am now learning how to design webpages, search databases and utilising social media for learning. I now use the internet for most of my banking needs, online shopping, booking travel, keeping in contact with family and friends overseas, running a social group and professional and personal research.

I store all my photographs online and also share them with family and friends. I am very active on social media, professionally and personally, although I do think carefully about what I post. It is great for networking and keeping in touch with my friends and family.

I read e-books, but prefer old-fashioned paper books. Although e-books have the advantage of being light and portable, so are great for travelling. I haven’t yet caught on with downloading movies and music online, probably because my music collection was developed before the internet and I prefer to watch movies at the local cinema.

My smartphone is used for more than phoning and texting. I use it for taking photographs, getting directions, banking, looking up train times, catching up on social media and use of the internet, amongst other things. It would be safe to say I would be lost without it.

I worked in a corrective centre for a while and no laptops or mobile phones were allowed in and I actually found this quite liberating, being uncontactable for 8 hours, although those trying to contact me found it hard to understand why I was not responding to their messages immediately. I feel that not being available 24/7 has advantages and I personally find it annoying when others stop everything to answer their phones and then proceed to have loud conversations. I also get irritated by other pedestrians who are reading their smartphones whilst walking and are unaware of their surroundings, which I feel can put themselves and others in danger.

Back to the persona, I tackled it like I tackle all new things, one step at a time and I’m really proud of the result. Looking at my persona, I realise that for someone who wasn’t educated in the digital age, I do possess a very active technological profile. From personal experience, people that I know in my age group are also becoming more technologically savvy, possibly in a desire to keep up with their children and probably because the world around us is relying more on it.

I think personas are important, as it would be very easy for designers to assume behaviour from certain age groups, genders and ethnicities (Miaskiewicz & Kozar, 2011). Traditionally software and web design was system focussed rather than user focussed (Anvari, & Hien, 2013). User centred design however, is centred around the needs of the users not the designers and it ultimately improves products (Miaskiewicz & Kozar, 2011).

Personas help the designers focus on real people and understand their needs and can be used when communicating with stakeholders (Anvari & Hien,2013, Massanari, 2010, Miaskiewicz & Kozar, 2011). By utilising personas based on real people, assumptions are reduced and products are designed for real people and become more relevant (Anvari & Hien, 2013, Massanari, 2010, Miaskiewicz & Kozar, 2011).

In order to get relevant and valid answers, they need to use a range of personas representing the age ranges, genders and ethnicities of the users they are targeting, and many personas do not depict minority groups such as the disabled (Massanari, 2010, Miaskiewicz & Kozar, 2011). They also need to be open minded in this, as their target users may not be broad enough. For example, Facebook was originally aimed at students attending Harvard, but now it’s hard to find a demographic group that isn’t represented on Facebook.

What have I learnt from this activity? I can achieve things I never thought possible using technology that wasn’t around when I was at school and university, or if it was, it would have been the province of computer geeks. I am also more comfortable around technology than I have ever been before, and am somewhat reliant on it. I have to admit I feel lost without my smartphone and do literally get lost without ready access to Google Maps.

I am probably over-reliant on Google, as it seems to be my platform of choice for most things, although I don’t think it’s going anywhere, anytime soon. I seemed to have completely missed the boat where Apple is concerned, having managed to avoid buying any of their technology, except for an old iPod, which is in the bottom of a drawer somewhere.

Digital technology is rapidly taking over all aspects of our lives but it is very important to realise that there is a still a significant digital divide, both internationally and in Australia. Whilst use and reliance on technology is increasing by many, there are still many that are excluded, either by choice, lack of knowledge or socio-economic factors. One in five Australian adults are not online, that is 4 million people who do not have access to the internet.

Technology therefore is becoming more widespread, whether we want it to or not. It is essential that steps are taken to close the digital divide and educate people in its use, and provide the means for them to access it. It is also essential that technology is aimed at all demographic groups and that personas are used to represent these groups. Companies are doing themselves and their users a disservice if they don’t accurately design products for the needs of all their potential users.


Anvari, F., & Hien Minh Thi, T. (2013). Persona Ontology for User Centred Design Professionals, Reading

Massanari, A. L. (2010). Designing for imaginary friends: information architecture, personas and the politics of user-centered design. New Media & Society, 12(3), 401-416. doi:10.1177/1461444809346722

Miaskiewicz, T., & Kozar, K. A. (2011). Personas and user-centered design: How can personas benefit product design processes? Design Studies, 32(5), 417-430. doi:10.1016/j.destud.2011.03.003

Acknowledgments for Images used in Persona.


The Sunspot Theme (n.d). Free Design for All. Retrieved on 18/03/16 on from

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3 thoughts on “Persona and user centred design

  1. Kelly Young says:

    Hi Debbie. Whilst I should be listening to the IFN611 lecture right now I am instead enjoying reading your well worded blog. You cover several aspects related to emerging technology in a very readable form. I too have had to grapple with finding my feet with new technologies. And agree – my music is very much pre-digital era!
    I have found Apple stuff very intuitive and have a smartphone and laptop. Very user focused platforms.


    • Deborah Fuller says:

      Thanks for your comments and encouragement Kelly. It has been difficult coming to grips with technology as it develops and changes. It was interesting to read how you find Apple intuitive. I’m not against it, but I’ve not tried it and would probably never look back if I did. I’m just a bit of a skinflint if the truth be known and object to paying the higher price.


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