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Use Diverse Personas and Better Scenarios to Light Dark Alleys

Now that you’ve gathered a more diverse foundation of research, it’s time to revisit your design artifacts. Let’s take what you’ve learned from your research and apply it to create better personas and scenarios. Let’s stray from the happy path, light up the dark alleys, and design a better experience even for those times when things go wrong.

Create diverse personas

Ask yourself these questions as you create or update the personas you use to think about your product.

  • Do they represent a diverse set of users?
  • Are their attributes (needs, goals, assumptions, etc.) based on quantitatively significant research data?
  • Have you made generalizations based on age, race, gender, or sexual preference?
  • Do you employ personas that are different from your own experience and biases?
  • If you use stock photography for your personas, have you chosen photography that does not perpetuate stereotypes?

If you’ve been doing the legwork for more diverse research, then more diverse personas should be a direct result. There’s no perfect formula for the right set of diverse personas, but aim to include personas that represent minorities, different age ranges, genders, sexual preferences, and cultures, and those with disabilities.

Be cautious not to fake attributes just to balance out your personas, though. If you haven’t researched with a specific subset of users, then don’t try to represent them before you’ve talked with them. Faking it will lead to stereotypes and personas that don’t feel real to your team.

Revisit scenarios and story maps

With a more diverse stock of personas, you’ll also want to revisit other artifacts like scenarios and story maps. How might they need to be adapted to account for different perspectives or handicaps? Do you have scenarios for alternate input methods: touch, voice, keyboard, etc.? Do your story maps represent interactions that a majority of your users may never need, but which a small minority could get immense value from? Have you validated scenarios with your diverse research participants? Have you asked your research participants to collaborate on story maps with you?

Be sure to consider scenarios for:

  • Protecting privacy: How can your users control who has access to what information? How do they know what’s shared publicly vs. privately? Can they remove data permanently?
  • Reporting abuse: What can your users do when someone sends them a harassing message? How do you handle it? How do users flag content that’s not appropriate for the audience?
  • Getting help: What happens when things break? How are users notified of downtime? What do you do when they get lost or confused?
  • Rewarding good behavior: How do you reward and encourage good citizenship within your community? What self-organizing habits can you create to encourage users to help each other and treat other with kindness?

Light up the dark alleys

These days, design always tends to start with the happy path. What’s the quickest and most delightful way to get the user from point A to point B? Good design, though, considers what happens when users stray from that happy path. As you focus on building a more inclusive experience, you should try to light up your dark alleys, place guardrails, and other protections to help your users either get back to the happy path or find the place no matter where they stray.

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