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A short interview with Whitney Quesenbery and 50% off her book today only!


Wacky Wednesdays are here for the Summer! This week we’re featuring Storytelling for User Experience by Whitney Quesenbery and Kevin Brooks.

We had a quick chat with Whitney about personas and easy mistakes to avoid in storytelling. Read on for more and use the discount code WACKY to get 50% off ebook versions of Storytelling! This sale only lasts until 11:59pm ET tonight!

Rosenfeld Media: How do personas improve the user experience of a product?

Whitney Quesenbery: For all the time in a project when you are not working directly with real users, personas stand in for them. They express what you know about the audience and keep those real users in mind as you make the thousands of decisions (large and small) that go into a new product.

Personas include a lot of data about demographics, behavior, and opinion. But what personas do better than a lot of charts and graphs is communicate imagery, emotions, context, and motivation. They help you remember the stories you heard, and let you tell new stories that explore how the personas will react to your new ideas.

RM: What’s a common mistake people make when it comes to personas and storytelling?

WQ: Not using them effectively. Too often, UX teams go to a lot of work to create personas, and then do little or nothing to put them to work. They make a few posters, run a presentation, and then put them aside.

Personas should be part of your product team. They are the way you continue to think about the audience and bring the UX research into the design process. Everyone on the team should know them by name, and be able to think about what each persona needs, wants, dislikes. This means that they need to get to know the personas properly—have a chance to ask them questions, learn what makes them crazy about the way things are now, and hear what new ideas will make them excited. Can you look at a sketch or prototype and have a good idea what they will do first and how they will react?

Two dangers to watch out for:

  1. Do all the personas start to sound the same? If they don’t represent different perspectives, attitudes, or contexts, then they don’t let you explore all the ways real people will experience your product.
  2. Do stories about the persona end too easily? Do they jump right from a problem to fully embracing your new app? Maybe you are telling stories for the users you hope to have, instead of the ones that are really out there.

RM: Thanks, Whitney!