What is a persona?

A persona is a character sketch to get to know the “target audiences” that will be using the website or application that is being designed. They are the entry point of a process and a building block for the scenarios and the design. Once developed, this knowledge enables us to understand the persona’s wants and needs and how it intersects with the organizations goals and objectives. The value of personas is that they describe “real users” and not general market segments. They are a good tool for the team to envision the various users (primary, secondary, tertiary) and their key behaviours, attributes, and motivations when using the organization’s site or application. They are usually written in a narrative style, and although they are written about a single person they encompass research and interviews of several people who represent that type of audience group. In some cases, once the team moves into development mode, the personas with the image, characteristics, narrative, scenarios and features/functions, are taped up on the walls. They are placed on the walls for the development team to continually review the various personas and to build out the features and functions that address their wants and needs.

What do personas do?

  • They provide key inputs for building interactions that support business-critical user goals.
  • They act as the types of users of a site or application that represent the needs of larger user groups.
  • They help guide decisions about functionality and design.
  • They allow teams to cut through confusion by bringing various users to life.

There are three requirements for effective personas (Forrester 2007):

Based on ethnographic research

  • interviews and observation
  • conducted with representative users
  • can reveal goals, attitudes, and behaviors

Developed into archetypes that represent users’ key behaviours

  • When real users’ goals, attitudes, and behaviors are embodied in a vivid description of a single “person” with a name and face, designers and stakeholders can get to know their target users — and make decisions that support their needs.

 Used consistently throughout the design process

  • To ensure that personas get used, project teams must inform stakeholders about persona benefits and create an explicit plan for integrating personas into design and decision-making processes

What is the ROI of personas

According to Forrester research the persona development budget can be as much 20% of the overall redesign budget. For some organizations this is too high of a price to pay and risk designing without the proper understanding of their users. This can lead to drop rates, abandonment, brand disillusionment etc. However their can be a return of investment if the personas are created properly. By creating personas the design of the site/application will be more aligned with the audience wants and needs reducing redesign and redevelopment costs. Things like return visits, task completion, brand loyalty, and fewer service calls to the call centre is a return of investment for the organization.

How to sell personas correctly

  • create an offering page describing what they are,  how they are used and the process around creating them
  • provide samples as case studies to show the success and why they are of value
  • create a cheat sheet for those doing the estimates to ensure the approach, process, and estimates are consistent and they are estimated correctly
  • put an expiry date on them as technology changes rapidly and they will need to be revisited within a period of time


Dorsey, M. (2007, July 19). Forrester Research : Research : Best And Worst Of Personas, 2007. Retrieved from

Drego, V. L., & Dorsey, M. (2010, August 3). Forrester Research : Research : Best And Worst Of Personas, 2007. Retrieved from

Four Steps toward Creative Thinking by Michael Michalko ……………5, 6, 7, 8 – why stop at four?

What is creativity?

Creativity isn’t something that is easy to pinpoint. Some people seem to be more creative than others. Creativity can be developed over time, and it can lead to something that changes the world, or it can happen on a much smaller scale. In Michalko’s paper he references the Sony Walkman as an example of creativity that changed the world. He describes the discovery of this as a “modification to an idea” that already existed.  Sony had tried to develop a recording playback machine, but their failed attempt at the recording function shelved the project. The chairman took the shelved product and combined it with their lightweight headphones making it into something else. The Walkman was created and changed the future of how people listen to music.

Not every creation changes the world, and in fact most don’t. However, the impetus to create is something that we as human beings are compelled to do. In his paper, Michalko discusses systems that can be used for creativity. Creative people develop systems, but can also use these systems as crutches. Just as patterns help us simplify complex things, they can also hinder our ability to be creative. Allowing ourselves to step outside of our expertise is another system that can help us with creativity, because sometimes too much knowledge can be restricting.

Do systems for creativity work? They can, but need to be changed on a regular basis. The same formula doesn’t fit all problems.

In my design work, creativity is solving a problem in a 2 dimensional space, which aligns with our clients’ business objectives and meets the needs of their customers, where the human benefits are more visible than the technology. It is solving an organization’s problem with methodologies and tools. Although we do this for many customers, the formula of what we do and how we do it changes for each customer.

In my art, creativity is looking at things in different ways by trying to capture a moment in time, or sensitivity about a particular thing. The way I achieve this is by trying different systems of thinking and doing, to get different results.

There are many discussions about creativity and what it is and what it is not. Creativity is in everything we do, from cooking, to managing money, we use it often in our every day tasks. Interestingly, many people don’t consider themselves creative.

In this brief paper, Michalko describes different systems to approaching creativity. He considers not thinking, reversing old ideas, perception expansion and getting crazy as steps in helping with creative thinking.

Not thinking: We typically think in structured ways, we categorize from our previous experiences. Our expertise can hinder our ability to be creative. If we try to forget what we know, it can help us be more creative.

Reversing old ideas: Common assumptions can stifle creativity, reversing these to change your perspective can bring forth new fresh ideas.

Perception expansion: Expanding the problem by making it less defined can change your perception of the problem. This will allow you to explore more possibilities and not be confined within a narrow space.

Getting crazy: Exploring the ridiculous, absurd or the preposterous may help. Word rhymes, creating double meanings, creating a song, or as Greg says making the strange familiar and the familiar strange, can fuel your creativity.

Having now been involved in a futures course and gaining an understanding of futures thinking, the creative thinking systems would compliment futures thinking. Some of the above can definitely help expand creative and futures thinking. Below are other ways to think about creativity with methods and tools to change how you think alone or in a group.

Other ideas to help with creativity:

  • Move to an environment with creative stimulation
  • Be open to all ideas initially, then hone in on the best ones
  • Try having a meeting standing up
  • Enhance your environment
  • Try moving your meeting to a place where you haven’t met before
  • Within a group setting, use stickies to quickly brainstorm ideas
  • Many minds make for more ideas, involve others as much as possible

A couple of creativity tools:

Oblique Strategies, Systems for Creativity – Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt

This is a deck of cards that offers thoughts to encourage lateral thinking and helps creative blocks.

Creative Whack Pack – Roger Von Oech

This is a deck of cards that encourages a fresh perspective by “whacking” you out of your same thought patterns.


Michalko, , M. (2000). Four Steps to Creative Thinking. The Futurist Date34(3).



Texting étiquette

Texting seems to have changed the dynamics of my relationships with both my family and friends. According to Big Fish Media’s Canadian mobile industry stats, Canadians send 227 million text messages every day.

Things that I like about texting

I like to be able to communicate  with my daughter at any point in time (if she responds to my texts). When I was a teen my parents never really knew my exact whereabouts, but this was normal at the time. Being in constant contact seems to be the new norm. I don’t have to call people to check in with them, I can quickly send a text to say hi.

After I moved from a dumb phone to a Blackberry and discovered that my niece had one too, we BBM’d all the time. It was really neat to get to know my sister’s daughter outside of the family dynamic and gatherings. I attribute our close relationship to the Blackberry although we both have had iPhones for years now (we still text a lot).

I also like that I can get a quick response from anyone that is in my contact list and has a texting plan on their phone.

Things that I don’t like about texting

Texting can be a time suck.  Sometimes when I want to put something off that I should be doing, I text my friends or family members.

Or, if my friends or family members text me and I am busy, my attention span divides and I stop focusing on what I am doing.

Also, I don’t really call friends or family as much as I used to, and if a friend doesn’t have a smartphone then I seem to communicate with them less and perhaps spend less time with them.

And I feel like I check my phone many times in the day to see if someone has texted me.

Some odd things I have noticed about texting

When texting you may ask a question and can get an answer immediately, or it can take hours or even days. Or sometimes you don’t get an answer at all. If you are having an in person, face to face conversation, and you ask a question, there is body language, facial expressions and perhaps some words to let you know they don’t want to answer your question. However with texting it can be ignored and not answered at all. There may be other reasons for this like it came at a busy time and they forgot to respond. Maybe some questions shouldn’t be asked, or should be asked in person.

The text that keeps in touch and talks about getting together but it never happens. It might be more meaningful to have a voice conversation about getting together and perhaps making a date to meet up.


Like other things there is etiquette that could be followed in texting. Below is a list that I have started.

If you are busy, it is ok to say so and chat later

Stop texting when your kids are trying to talk to you

If you need an immediate reply, try a voice call

Don’t text while you are talking to someone in person

Don’t text something you wouldn’t say to someone in person

Don’t text while driving

Don’t text while walking

Don’t text while drunk

Check your text before sending it for both autocorrect and contact name

Consider the time when you text

Sometimes I wish for the simpler days when texting didn’t exist and being connected wasn’t top of mind. I think I need to turn off or ignore my phone more.


I have been thinking about communities lately. I have been comparing our more traditional communities with social media communities. Traditional communities have been around from the tribe or earlier through to the current bingo hall or knitting club. Social media communities are newer and an opportunity for organizations to build their brand promise and customer experience. What makes a traditional community or a social community successful? Why do some communities work and others don’t?

So, what is a community?

There are communities of interest, communities of action, communities of practice and communities based on geographical locations. My kids are passionate about their taekwondo and gymnastic clubs. My in-laws were very involved in their church community, where it was as much about friendship and socializing as it was about worship. A group of people in my neighbourhood joined forces to take action in stopping the condominium development at the major intersection near my home. There are communities due to a geographic location, like my block, where we have a community watch to ensure people, kids and homes are safe. All of these communities have commonalities, people coming together in a location with common interests.

Has the notion of the community morphed or progressed because of social media?

In social communities, the common interest is still true for communities, but the living in the same location doesn’t necessarily make it less of a community. Perhaps the common place is virtual, via a web conference or an internet connection and a telephone. Does the fact that social communities involve persons that live in locations all over the world make it less of a community? Or is it the common interest that makes it a community? I am involved in a community of practice for User Experience professionals. We call in monthly from all over North America to listen to a point of view or be guided through presentations on interesting design and or technology trends. Organizations who are not successful in their social community building may want to look at the traditional community as a model to follow. Perhaps these models will translate well to successful virtual communities.

What successful communities have you been part of both in person and on social networks and why are they successful?




I am a mom and artist and a designer. I have kids, a full-time job and I am doing a Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada. I am interested in the culture, community, social media, the brain, and education. This list changes regularly as I research and learn. This is where I will put my ideas and thoughts that will feed into my Major Research Project. (MRP)