I spent this morning putting together a few personas for my new tech tools website. These are commonly used in software development to get a sense of your target audience and to keep the focus of whatever it is you are building. Often you will hear the world "user-centered design" or "user-experience" (UX) in marketing and tech. Personas are a useful way to start thinking about user-experience before you even start. Personas are fictional characters created to represent the variety of different user types. They may be based on prior information, for example survey data from interviews about a similar product, or they may reflect the demographic of a specific group of people, for example, early to mid-career astronomers. They are widely considered a part of the interaction design (IxD) process, and often used in industrial design.
I find them helpful for keeping ideas focussed. Up until this week, my tech tools website had stalled a little, partly because I had a flurry of new ideas and because I decided I wanted to build something to benefit the entire community. Overnight the project suddenly become far grander and more intimidating than the original idea, which was to just get all the tool used at .Astronomy onto a website.
So I went back and created three different user personas that better reflect my initial target audience while leaving some wiggle room for expansion. They are fictional to some extent, a mix of various people already in the community. There were at least 8 people that immediately sprung to mind when I put these together, but as I look at them now, it's clear that they represent many more people in the community. I deliberately reflected some of the current gender issues into my personas e.g. senior, confident male programmer vs. more junior tentative female researcher, because helping women in STEM to build confidence in the coding/hacking arena is something I'd like to achieve.