Sample Personas from Involver

This post is an update to my previous post on personas. I’m circling back to share some example personas that my team developed at Involver. Now that we’re part of Oracle these personas are out of date but they should be helpful as references. In my experience good personas must be developed/evolved iteratively.

I’ve found that it’s useful to print up our personas and hang them on the wall so that you can walk over and review them as you debate some business or design decision. If you do this, I recommend putting up a page that explains what personas are. At Involver it was fun to watch my colleagues and guests to the office read and react to them. Here’s what our explanation poster looked like:


And here is what one of our personas looked like. We developed a handful of these to round out the folks that we designed for or worked with. Remember, these are fictitious characters and are NOT based on specific individuals.

One thing that you may notice about these personas is that they are designed for marketing and sales use. Of course, you can adjust the format to meet your specific needs. Here I call out which collateral is most relevant to each persona along with selling points. If you’ve got other great reference examples please post links in the comments.

“Users” vs “Consumers” vs “Customers”

Jesse James Garret gave an interesting plenary at the recent IA Summit in which he spoke about how he came to terms with the word “user”. The talk in general proposed that information architects are ultimately working as user experience designers, which is an idea that I completely agree with. In fact, artists went through a similar identity crisis with the popularization of installation art, which is also focused on the overall experience. In the latter case, the artists didn’t want to be seen as sculptors, painters, sound artists or within any other discipline. They wanted to be seen as installation, or conceptual, artists. Installation artists often recite that space is defined as the area between two objects, ideas, or things. This fits with the idea of creating experiences because experiences happen in the space between things, whether those things are architectural elements, sculptural elements or specific interactions.

Getting back to “users”, Jesse mentioned a joke that is often cited in the design world, which two professions refer to their customers as users? Designers and drug dealers. Obviously, this does not reflect well on designers. Jesse, however, did his best to accept the term by pointing out that “consumers” is not appropriate because it implies that all they do is consume (i.e. gobble up products and crap cash a la ClueTrain Manifesto). This is obviously not the case when you consider the tidal wave of consumer generated media online, which I prefer to refer to as “user generated content.” “Customers” doesn’t quite work either because not all “users” are buyers. Finally, one good thing about the term “users” is that it implies use, function, and purpose.

Listen to Jesse’s talk here:

Innovative Kiosks & The Mirror Stage

This weekend I read an article in the NY Times about new retail kiosks that will be coming to a store near you. I was happy to see that the examples from the article were created by the San Francisco office of Frog Design. When I read the article, I was reminded of an art project I worked on several years ago and the post I wrote a couple weeks ago about how some of the best marketing ideas bubble up from the arts. Here’s an example from my life:


(c) NY Times An artist’s rendering of an automated service island for a retail store from Intel and Frog Design.

From My Art

Back in 2001 I exhibited an installation entitled ROOM for which I created an initial experience designed to take the viewer’s mind off what they were thinking about before they arrived at the gallery. I used to think of it in culinary terms as a “cleansing of the palette”.  As they walked through the gallery entramce, they would see a video camera obviously positioned above the doorway. Once through the doorway they were confronted with a video screen that was obviously getting a video feed from the camera over the doorway. But something was off because the video showed someone walking up to the doorway, but there wasn’t anyone behind the viewer. Most people then noticed something very familiar about the person on the screen, it was them! What was happening, was that the video was delayed by about 15 seconds. The effect of this experience was intended to be jarring enough to distract viewers from anything they might have been thinking about before entering.

Mirror Stage

Mirror Stage is a simple concept that uses a similar video delay to improve the interaction customers have with mirrors in  retail clothing stores. The system uses an inexpensive camera that is embedded in the center of a flat screen television, along with a hacked Tivo box. A customer would walk up to the screen to see how a piece of clothing looked on them. They would use the screen as a mirror. What is unique about the system is that there would be a button on the wall that would allow the customer to delay the video (essentially hitting pause, then play on the Tivo). This would allow them to turn around and then look back at the screen to watch themselves turning around for themselves! No more adjusting mirrors, or twisting your neck to see your own reflection.

I though it was a rather clever idea, but never really got the project off the ground. I think the next generation of  kiosks is a great place to revisit the concept though, especially considering that the experience of watching yourself in delay is highly engaging. The NY Times article also talks about a partnership between I.B.M and EZface that allows kiosks to offer virtual makeovers. Basically, it takes a photograph of the customer’s face and allows them to digitally apply cosmetic treatments.

UPDATE: MarketingVox: a dressing room technology that made me laugh …. and maybe cry.

The Marketing Value

It goes without saying that the marketing value that could emerge from these new kiosks is significant. Simply understanding the kinds of questions that customers are searching for in-store versus online should offer insight into how to improve customer satisfaction. In the article Frog’s chief creative director talks about how sophisticated the online retail experience is (for example, the way it makes recommendations) and how that experience has not been available in store previously. It’s a good point, and one that deserves analysis based on use.

Beyond that, I  see how such as system could drive real-time layout changes in the store based on what customers are trying on most. Of course, it could also allow them to see the store inventory, and divert purchases online when the desired item is not in-store. I also think there are interesting opportunities to bring community into the experience, use analytics to return value to customers through the display, and connect the expereince customers have across touch-points.

Integrating Experience Across Touchpoints

Managing user experience across touchpoints can have a profound effect on your business. There is a “1+1=3” effect that takes place when you align touchpoints, such that the whole becomes greater than the sum of it’s parts. This idea has been championed by the artist Joseph Albers who explored chromatic interactions with flat colored squares arranged concentrically on the canvas. It’s also been promoted by Edward Tufte, who comments on information design:

“Visual activation of negative areas of white space in these exhibits illustrates the endlessly contextual and interactive nature of visual elements. This idea is captured in a fundamental principle of information design: 1 + 1 = 3 or more. In the simplest case, when we draw two black lines, a third visual activity results, a bright white path between the lines … Most of the time, that surplus visual activity is non-information, noise, and clutter.” – Envisioning Information


While Tufte states that the extra information is often clutter, this does not have to be the case. In fact, we can use this effect to construct powerful experiences, thus amplifying the effect of our designs. Here are some playful examples of the Gestalt Theory of Visaul Perception.

How does the theory work in the real world?

In an earlier post, I spoke about the research that Dan Ariely conducted for his book Predictably Irrational; he demonstrated how the way we set up experiences can have a profound effect on how we respond to them. In one study, Ariely placed the same quantity of food on two plates, one large  and one small. He then gave 50% of his research participants the large plate and the other 50% the small plate. After eating from their respective plates, the subjects were asked about how full they were. The participants who received the smaller plates stated that they were more satiated, though they were given the same amount of food. Thus, the visual experience of gestalt connects with the real world experience of the research subjects.


In the above image, which of the dots at the center is larger?
As you’ve probably guessed by now, they are the same size.

So, how does this work in a marketing context?

The experiences we have with products and services across touchpoints are also effected by the above phenomena. Creating a consistent experience across touchpoints creates an over-arching experience that is greater than sum of its parts. For this reason, marketers can deliver significant value simply by aligning experience across touchpoints. Here’s a diagram that I created to explain the benefits of integrating the experience across six touchpoints. Click on it for a larger image:

Touchpoints Diagram

Of course, this may be easier said than done. One reason that touchpoints become fragmented is because they are often managed by different silos within an organization. In order to align these silos, marketers must construct connections. This means opening windows between them, working collaboratively, and establishing standards. For marketers, these standards are often presented in the form of style guides and communication guides, though they are adopted more readily when positioned as knowledge resources. I talk more about the importance of marketing as knowledge management here. One key to success is to create resources that are as light weight as possible, which supports adoption, but robust enough to keep the touchpoints aligned.

The challenging part is assimilating the intelligence that bubbles up from each silo, integrating the sum of learning, and re-articulating it such that each silo understands the compromises and opportunities associated with the effort. When it comes down to it, the marketer must often play the role of negotiator. This can be a thankless job, because the negotiator rarely gets the credit, or the benefit of social capital, for a successful agreement. There are ways to manage this, but that’s a topic for a future blog post.

All this effort is made because experience isn’t just about how we interact with a product or service, it’s about the experience a customer has with a brand across touchpoints. Consider this thought, If a customer has a great experience at one touchpoint, but a poor experience at another, the net result may be less than the average of the two. How so?

The Peak-end Rule

The above argument is supported by a concept called The Peak-end Rule, that was developed by the Nobel Prize winning economist and psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, to explain how people judge past experiences. You can imagine how this would be relevant to consider when managing the different touchpoints a customer might experience.

“According to the peak-end rule, we judge our past experiences almost entirely on how they were at their peak (pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended. Other information is not lost, but it is not used. This includes net pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted.” – Wikipedia


The diagram above shows two scenarios, one in which the peak experience is pleasant and one in which it is unpleasant. Though the average experience (total shaded area) is the same for all but two periods, the perceived experience is much greater in the top example. Even if you were to adjust the baseline of the bottom graph upwards to accommodate for the shaded area lost in the unpleasant peak, the top graph would still come out way ahead.  Here’s another example:


In this case, two positive peaks are contrasted. All points are the same except from the peak, which is higher for the bottom chart. Simply increasing the value of this one experience has a significant and lasting effect on the overall experience.

What does this mean for managing you experience across touchpoints?

Based on this research, you can offer an average, or even slightly below average, experience so long as you offer your customers one truly great experience. If however, you allow even one unpleasant peak experience to take place across your touchpoints, it’ll cost your dearly. This brings us back to the idea of aligning touchpoints and creating consistency. Integrating experience across touchpoints is an effective means of ensuring that you don’t have an unpleasant peak. It’s also an excellent means of identifying the touchpoints that represent opportunities where you can really shine by creating a pleasant peak experience. My former colleague, Brandon Schaeur, refers to these as “moments of wow” in his Long Wow presentation.

If you found the ideas in this post interesting, you’ll probably enjoy Brandon’s presentation below. It speaks to the issues I’ve addressed here, but more broadly explores how to do product/service development that strings together moments of wow over time. He also provides some great examples of companies that have gotten it right. His presentation also touches on some of the issues I discuss in my earler post Where Marketers Art Today. Enjoy!

Experience Strategy & Experience Design

Yesterday I read a short post from the Design Mind Blog at frog design, it got me thinking about experience design. With the IxDA conference coming up, now seems like a good time to weigh in on the subject. In the frog post, the author mentions giving a talk to Ron Wakkary’s students titled Experience Design is a Bunch of Horse-Shit (click for slides). No matter what your perspective, the post is worth a read. Also, the recent  Interactions Magazine article mentioned in the piece is worth checking out (though you’ll need a subscription to get the whole story).

Here’s my take on experience design and experience strategy. This comes from extensive conversations with the folks at Adaptive Path, most notably  Brandon Schauer, and Jesse James Garrett. Here’ the illustration I created to try and explain how they work together, if you click on the illustration you can see a larger version:


What I like about this diagram is that it shows that experience design must work in conjunction with strategy. The two disciplines are shown in a double-helix, like DNA, to remind us that breakthrough experiences put people at the center of the design process. I should also note that strategy is focused on value, while design is focused more on making the engagement compelling.

Jon Kolko’s slide deck includes the following text:

“The assumption that designers control situations leads to self-delusion and also the delusion of clients. Manhattan’s office building plazas – populated by bums, prostitutes, and ambulatory psychotics – are built from architects’ models made credible with the aif of nicely dressed figures sitting still, admiring the fountain and generally making the scale of the building look tolerable. The trouble is that people don’t behave like the cardboard people in architect’s models, because what the cardboard people don’t do is behave.”

I think this is a wonderful point, and I’m in complete agreement. However, I’m not sure that proper experience design works this way because it should be focused on how people would actually act in the enviornment through research, ethnography, and testing. To put it in the parlance of horses (as Jon has), you can provide the horse with the experience of water, but you can’t know exactly if/how he’ll drink it. That said, there is a whole lot you can do with respect to how the horse discovers the water, how it tastes, how much of it there is, and what happens before/during/after the interaction that can improve the experience. The sum of these influences goes beyond the interaction design itself into the realm of experience design in my view.