March 18, 2014 - Comments Off on Why might UX make Alan angry?

Why might UX make Alan angry?

The question was: who was Angry Alan? And why was he so very angry? Personas – the favoured tool of the UX professional for understanding who comes to and uses a website – are a precise thing.

A good persona tells you what sort of person is looking at your site and what they are looking for. It’ll tell you that someone who flits to your website second screening during Corrie is in a relaxed mood; it’ll tell you that someone coming to your site at lunchtime at work is in a hurry to pay a bill and leave; and it’ll tell you how these “people” will react in different situations.

But not Angry Alan. Angry Alan was something else entirely.

Angry Alan matched his placid counterpart perfectly, aside from the fact that he was in an agitated state when he arrived at the website in question.

He wasn’t a second persona. When calm he operated in exactly the same way as regular Alan, and remembering that it’s very wise to avoid creating too many in a cast of UX characters, Angry Alan and, well, Calm Alan had to be the same persona.

This highlighted a problem with personas and how we use them. We spend a lot of time considering how our work will affect people as they experience it and a lot about how they will feel having experienced it – but very little about how they will feel when they arrive.

Alans, Beths, Claires, Dannys… we know that they have needs, and we have a general idea as to how they might feel when they come to a website, but how often do we represent the multitude of moods as well as tasks that a user has to perform?

Eric might want to pay a bill and Fiona might want to make a claim, so when we form personas around tasks are we sure that we’re fully covering emotional states that they’re performing those tasks in? Is Fiona always irritated and Eric always in a rush? Really?

Just as we can no longer say what sort of device people will want to use when they are accessing our website, it’s impossible to say what mood they’re in. If someone wants to pay a bill on the train they may be enjoying a comfortable seat in an air conditioned carriage, or they could be on a Northern Rail train.

We have the axis of task and the axis of person, but Angry Alan leads to a conclusion that personas need a third axis. We need to separate mood from task if we are going to create personas that accurately model our users.

Angry Alan needs to be calmed down, or perhaps Placid Alan could be excited if needed, and then his task can be addressed, but without addressing the mood before the task it’s harder to say how the task should be addressed.

And an unaddressed task might make Alan angry again.