by John Schrag
I’ve really enjoyed hearing all the new ideas being tossed around here at the Usability Professional's Association Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. My colleague Desirée Sy and I had presented a tutorial on the topic of making your UX practice Agile, so I was on the lookout for more Agile/UX materials. With this in mind, I went to see a poster presentation by Jon Innes of UX Innovations and fellow Autodesker James McElroy , called “The UXI Matrix”.
Jon and James presented a method of charting and making visible the state of an Agile project in terms of its usability, to help a team monitor and control its UX work. The chart had many features, but I was particularly interested to see how they charted the stories in the backlog against all the different user personas. A series of checkboxes showed which features were related to which personas. The chart also showed a tally of how many actual human beings representing each persona type had been talked to by the team. This mapping had some interesting effects; it suggested when personas might need to be merged (when they share all the same stories), and warned when potential error loomed (when a given persona was under represented in actual human contact). And it showed when the needs of some personas were being ignored by the project --- none of their stories were getting done.
This ‘forgotten user’ idea struck home later that day when I was using the hotel bathroom on the conference floor, and found a smartphone that some poor fellow had left behind. There was no one else in the bathroom, so I poked around on the phone to see if there was some way to determine who owned it, and to get a message back to him. I had no luck; the phone was very securely locked up, protecting the owner's private data – but also preventing the phone from being returned.
I realized that I was a forgotten persona --- the "honest guy who finds a lost phone". I represented a rare but critical persona, with a single workflow. The phone designers had focused instead on thwarting another valid persona: the phone/identity thief. I imagined a feature on the phone that would allow me leave a voice mail for the owner (that would be emailed to him, or that he could pick up from his phone service provider) so I could let him know that I was leaving his phone with the hotel concierge.
Some smartphones (such as the iPhone) have a feature to help the owner track it down, and even to display a message to whoever might have found it. But these features are designed for the phone owner, not the honest finder.
So ask yourself: in your designs, do you consider the people who interact rarely but critically with your designs? It's something to think about.