Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Personas Personified

Almost a year ago to the day, I had the honor of being part of an online roundtable produced by the Election Assistance Commission.

The roundtable was on social media and was the second of a successful series of roundtables the EAC had conducted over the last 15 months.  Another one is being conducted today.

I made many new friends that day, one of my Top 10 best days of 2011.  One new friend, Dana Chisnell, was featured this week in a post by Doug Chapin.  He's got some more details coming, he says, but Dana is representative of a wave of smart people who are transferring their skills to the election administration profession.

She's become defined as the usability lady.  Oh, that calls for an interlude:

In my 20 years at Sprint, I learned a key survivability trait.  Namely, get known for something, have it etched on your forehead, be known as that person, and then devote your life to shaking that identity and  building a new one.

At Sprint I went from the PR guy to the relay services guy to the wholesale guy.  Now, I'm an elections geek.  I guess here, my identity is evolving in elections to the blogging guy.  It carries over into other industries, too--our Photo ID campaign was developed by the "Pork, the Other White Meat" guy.

So, for Dana to build this identity is impressive.  Equally impressive is what she advocated in Doug's post--personas.

The first election website to use personas?  Why, that would be the Johnson County Election Office in its website redux in 2006.

Instead of organizing our website by topics that only our website administrator would know, we customized content by visitor, with tabs, such as "For Voters," "For Candidates," and "For Election Workers."

I'm a big believer in using personas.  In fact, the "Persona Guys," Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg have a great book about it, "Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?"

In 2005, I got a call from a college student looking to intern.  The summer of 2005 was not an election-intensive period, so I put her on the case of creating our web personas.  Not what she expected from elections, she quit after a couple of weeks, but she actually did a pretty good job at defining what was then a pretty airy concept.

We used this concept most recently for training, creating personas of the types of persons who may come in related to Photo ID.  I've attached what we submitted as an entry for the Election Center's Best Practices program as background into how the personas can be used:

We are about to undertake a process for defining our next generation voting system.  As we do that, we will create personas for various voters, particularly those who are disabled, so that we can build a system that meets those needs.

Personas can go a lot farther than websites, a cause I'm sure Dana will be championing.  And, personas can go a lot farther in government than elections.  Elections are becoming an innovation engine in public administration, and the use of personas is a small example of why.


Anonymous said...

fantastic post thanks for sharing
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Dana Chisnell said...

Personas can be a super awesome tool to help people keep their users in mind. They're like imaginary friends!

The Eisenbergs' book is terrific. There are lots of resources available.

Here are the slides from my talk at GeekNet: http://civicdesigning.org/featured-story/using-voter-personas-to-design-better-election-web-sites/

Another set of tools for election officials (and other public administrators!) comes in the first set of Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent. Print versions will be available at the beginning of July for FREE. But in the meantime, anyone can download the PDFs here: civicdesigning.org/fieldguides

Thanks for saying those nice things about me, Brian. Proud to be "the usability lady of elections."


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