Anyone who's been within shouting distance of myself or Paul Downey over the past six months will know that we embrace the mantra laid out in "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum" by Alan Cooper (free preview available on Google Books). For those who haven't read this book, the main contentions are:
- Products should be designed based on end users and their goals, rather than on the underlying system or code
- Features shouldn't be included just because they're easy to add. Unnecessary features result in a bloated interface and a poor user experience. Features should help end users reach their defined goals. If they don't, maybe they should be removed.
- Developers aren't well positioned to design great user interfaces because they have too intimate a relationship with the underlying code.
I still think there's plenty for us (the open source community) to learn from Cooper's book. Even for those who think open source is all about scratching your own itch. If you want other people to use your product (open source or otherwise), it will greatly improve the chances of adoption if you try and understand the end user's goals, and design the user interface to help them meet those goals.
Cooper provides guidance on how to achieve this. We use personas. We make up pretend people, and design for them. We attribute them with believable characteristics, give them goals and motives, and then base the user experience around those goals.
It sounds simple, but creating good personas is an art, and this is my first attempt. But I have tried to learn from Cooper, as well as my former (rather talented) colleagues at LBi. Below you can see the two personas I've developed for the next phase of RippleRap development. I'm publishing these for the following reasons:
- Developers who are new to the concept of personas might find this process interesting, and might want to develop their own personas (in which case, read Inmates first! You can copy my format, but would be much better off developing specific personas for your product. Here's a decent introduction)
- People interested in RippleRap might be curious why our development priorities are changing
- People with more experience than I might weigh in with suggestions (fingers crossed)
- We want to be open about our process to see what we can learn from this transparency
Dan - "Fastidious Notetaker"
Sally - "Social Butterfly"
The next stage is paper prototyping. We're developing RippleRap for BlogTalk on 3/4 March 2008. Watch this space.