Creating personas with Google Docs
Every year my Applied Multimedia students complete an exercise where they work in small groups to write a description of a “persona” – an imaginary person who represents the clientele of an entity. Usually one member of the group opens up a word processor and acts as secretary for the rest. This year, just after the activity started up, I slapped myself on the forehead and realized that the students should be using Google Docs. For those who are not familiar, Google Docs are sharable online documents for word processing, spreadsheets and more. They “live” in your Google account and work very much like files created in Microsoft Office.
Back to my class … I suggested to the students that they share a Google Doc to create their persona, and one of the groups ran with it. The activity couldn’t have gone better. One student created the file and invited the others to share it. Notre Dame uses Google Mail for student accounts, so access was not an issue. Almost immediately, I saw that each of the students was actively contributing to the document.
Part of the persona activity is to find and include a photo of a real person; this gives additional “life” to the fictional client. Typically one student takes on this task, and then the group has to figure out how to get the picture from one computer to another. With the Google Doc, as soon as one student inserted the picture, the others could see it on their screen.
Even the groups not using Google Docs did well this year; it was probably the best crop of personas I have ever gotten. I did have a special fondness for the Google Doc individual, though. That particular group had been assigned to describe someone who would be a potential Habitat for Humanity home owner. They named her Anita Dwelling (view the persona).
Resources for creating personas
- Perfecting your Personas by Kim Goodwin
- Using personas in UI design by Interaction Design
- Ad-Hoc Personas & Empathetic Focus by Don Norman
- The exercise from my class