Persona by Mariner – Tool for User Research?

A little blurb popped up in my inbox this afternoon advertising Persona, a new software release from Mariner. (I’ve used MacJournal from them before and love it.)

Persona by Mariner

In essence, Persona is a program that helps writers develop and maintain characters for their stories:

Persona is based on this concept: by categorizing characters into archetypes, you can know their background, which in turn shows their motivations, and then allows you to predict their behavior. (My emphasis)

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Users Don’t Know What They Want…Or What They do

We’ve heard it time and time again: People don’t know what they want. We’ve heard it from usability experts and UX designers…

To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behavior. (Jakob Nielson, First Rule of Usability? Don’t Listen to Users)

You can’t ask users outright what they want. You get theoretical answers. You don’t get the answers that result from real choices in real situations. You don’t get the truth about how people think and work. (Robert Hoekman, Designing the Obvious)

The “listen to your users” produces incoherent designs. The “ignore your users” can produce horror stories, unless the person in charge has a clear vision for the product, what I have called the “Conceptual Model.” The person in charge must follow that vision and not be afraid to ignore findings. Yes, listen to customers, but don’t always do what they say. (Donal Norman, Human Centered Design Considered Harmful“)

We’ve heard it from Apple…

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. (Steve Jobs, quoted in “The Entrepreneur of the Decade“)

And we’ve heard it from pop-culture (thanks, George, for reminding me of this example):

[Homor’s half-brother] Herb decided his company needed a new car that would appeal to the “average” American. Despite the many objections of Herb’s employees, Herb encouraged Homer to follow his instincts in creating a car that American consumers would want to buy. Homer took charge of the project after Herb encouraged him to obey his gut when it came to what kind of car he wanted. Motors. (Simpsons Wiki, “The Homer”)

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How to: “Quote Dumping” With Kindle

In my last post, I mentioned that one reason I like reading with my Kindle app so much is how easy it makes it for me to manage my highlights and notes. I’m currently preparing for my primary comprehensive exam in November (yikes), and this feature helps me streamline my research and studying process.

I once painstakingly tried to copy down all quotes (along with citation information) I thought might be significant and useful for the future. And, more often than not, I was too tired/rushed/lazy/[insert appropriate adjective here] to do this while I was actually reading. This meant I either had to go back to the text and filter through all my highlights when I needed them, or I didn’t return to the text at all. (I’m ducking my head in shame.)

Total waste of time. And time is the one thing in my life I cannot afford to waste.

Now, all I do is highlight key passes in the Kindle app (either on my iPad or Mac), log into my kindle account online, and view all my highlights on one page. Once I’ve finished reading a text, I copy all the highlights into a document and file it away. Quote dump complete.

This also saves me time note-taking. Rather than taking detailed notes on every text I read that I use later to refresh my memory, I pull up my quote dump document. Skimming through my highlights gives me a very good idea about what I’ve read. Now, I save note-taking for annotation only: personal comments, flashes of brilliance ideas, criticism, or questions.

Just for kicks, here’s my entire process…

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We Don’t Buy Products. We Buy Experiences.

Whole foods, Audi, Starbucks, MoleskineWhole Foods. Audi. Starbucks. Moleskine.

Each of these brands develop and sell vastly different and unrelated products, but it’s not just “stuff” they market to consumers, it’s experience. There’s no doubt that Whole Foods is more than just groceries, Audi is more than simply automobiles, Starbucks is more than just coffee and pastries, and Moleskine more than stationary.

Whether we’re motivated by a personal attraction to elegance and quality or enticed by the cultural and societal status these brands signify, we still place a premium on the experience they provide. The experience embedded into these brands is why we pay $2 for a grande coffee at Starbucks when we could brew it for $0.47 at home or $10 for a Moleskine notebook instead of buying a $1 notebook from The Dollar Tree.

Even Stanford University President John Hennessy alluded to the draw of experience in an interview with Salman Khan about the future of credentialing in higher education. When asked if Stanford would ever consider implementing a completely online learning model for undergraduate, Hennessy quickly replied no”:

“We require our [undergraduate] students to live in a community for four years. And we believe that’s an important part of the [education] process…Will fully online learning be an experience that we feel is equivalent to the on-campus experience? That will be the question.

In other words, a significant portion of what these students (err–their parents) are paying for at these elite institutions has nothing to do actual classroom education. Of course I acknowledge that more prestigious universities attract high quality professors and can afford to provide student’s access to exceptional resources, etc… But my point is that students are not paying for the quality of the information being delivered (you can pretty much find all of that online, free of change); they are paying for the community, the culture, the experience.

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