How Data Formed Yale’s New Process of Creating UX Personas

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User Experience Designer

About the Project

In an effort to remove any unconscious bias or exclusivity, the Yale UX team went through and updated our Persona deliverable. We applied modern techniques including interview transcribing, tagging, and data research backed by our new tool called Airtable.

About the Team

This was a group effort between myself, another User Experience Designer, and our User Researcher at Yale University. My contributions were around our integration with Airtable and forming our data structures.

The Problem

Internally, our Yale UX team was discussing how we weren’t happy with our current method of personas due to biases that were formed while creating and delivering the final deliverable. Through most recent project that we worked, on we found that we spent too long discussing and finding images for our personas. We found ourselves prioritizing who/what we were showing as opposed to the UX findings that were discovered through over 100 hours of user interviews, user shadowing, and UX research. 

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With the idea of change in mind, we sought after any online publications that may have run into the same issue we did and we found this great article called, Your personas probably suck. Here’s how you can build them better. In this article, the author talks about how personas have become plug-and-play templates that focus on good-looking portraits and create stereotypes.

“They [personas] are shortcuts that put our users in boxes, they oversimplify the complexity of individuals and they are not useful.”

Instead, the author goes on to recommend ditching the aspects of personas that create biases and lean more towards facts and data.

Along with our newfound idea of fixing our personas, we discovered the role of archetypes in user experience. We learned that in UX, archetypes focus on the behavior decisions and motivations behind a user's decisions. While these are similar to personas, we felt that archetypes were a more accurate way to depict our users. Therefore, our rebrand of personas to archetypes was born!

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Our team knew we wanted to document and tag our interviews to gain a better sense of our users' needs. We started using Airtable and we quickly found how valuable this tool can be for our team. Airtable allowed us to tag any user's needs or pain points that we noticed in our conversation. This quickly gave us around 10 users' needs and 10 pain points that multiple users have encountered. Additionally, this gave us an opportunity to identify archetypes throughout the discovery process.

Here is a look at our “User Needs and Pain Points” Airtable. As you can see, we have all of the user needs ordered from most popular to least. This was vital information to obtain in order to ensure our users' needs were heard and a comprehensive and prioritized list could be generated. 

Once we identified all of our archetypes, we assigned them to our users based on user interview data. Utilizing Airtable, we were able to drill down our user needs and pain points one level deeper. Now we can identify user needs and pain points that each specific archetype ran into, which allows us to target specific issues when addressing our users. In this scenario, the overall users had “User Permissions” for all of our users at a rate of 55%, but when looking at our “Expert” archetype below, “User Permissions” rose to the number one user need at 72%. 

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We have successfully transformed our persona’s which may have been influenced by some of our unconscious bais, formed by assumptions, and caused extra work hours and turned them into archetypes that are based on data, research, and are inclusive.

Final Archetype deliverable - "Student" Archetype on Yale Usability Website Discovery Project

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