RAA: It’s hard to tell a good story — exploring persona-scenarios

RAA stands for: Research Article Analysis

Paper discussed:

Madsen, S., & Nielsen, L. (2010). Exploring Persona-Scenarios – Using Storytelling to Create Design Ideas. In D. Katre, R. Orngreen, P. Yammiyavar, & T. Clemmensen (Eds.), Human Work Interaction Design: Usability in Social, Cultural and Organizational Contexts (Vol. 316, pp. 57-66). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com/content/6nh13h2684v154lm/

1. Purpose of the research:

Explore the persona-scenario method and propose guidelines about how to construct persona-scenarios as good and coherent stories for IT system design.

2. Methods:

Review of persona, scenarios, and narrative theory was introduced and followed by a case study. Review part is heavy in this paper because of its theoretical characteristic. Case study was presented as a verification as well as supplement for their conclusion.

The case study was reported as group tasks from a persona-scenarios workshop. The task was to build persona-scenarios to facilitate the redesign of Virk.dk, a portal that enables companies to submit forms digitally to government. Sixteen participants were chosen, as key stakeholders in development process, to attend the workshop. They were than divided into 4 groups and worked on building persona-scenarios. Each group was given a short text with a start situation for their persona, and asked to write and present their scenarios based on the situation given. The authors also provided a brief analysis of the case.

3. Main Findings:

The authors brought up their “theory” of building persona-scenarios in narrative theory perspective, mainly based on their review of different methods and theories. Since the nature of scenarios is story-telling, they believed that follow and modify the narrative theory could help to build well-constructed persona-scenarios. They then gave a mapping between narrative elements (characters, time, problem, setting, opening episode, episodes, resolution, plot, overall story, and narrator’s perspective) in the story form and narrative elements in a persona-scenario. In this way, they tried to define the scope and structure of a persona-scenario.

In the next stage, through analyzing the case study, they found out that “for scenario writers, once the story is started, it develops in its own course”, which means they might have different focus and extra preference developing the story. This will inevitably harm the credibility of the scenarios. Based on the case study, they further provided the following instructions as supplements to their previous mapping:

  • In the scenarios, while the persona is the protagonist, the future IT system has to play a prominent role as well — it could be part of the events — rather than a character or tool-like object.
  • In design scenarios, the problem should always be solved and goal should always be reached. Because “the more they address obstacles and design-oriented ways of overcoming the obstacles, the more concrete the future IT system and design ideas for the future IT system stand out within the story and get validated from the persona’s point of view”.

At the end, they gave a comprehensive table of components in a design-oriented persona-scenarios, developed from the original mapping table and the case study results.
4. Analysis:

This paper is well executed in terms of providing very good points for constructing persona-scenarios. The correlation of persona-scenarios and narrative theory was wisely found and presented to construct the structure of persona-scenarios. Analysis of case study was brilliant too, with good points found to further modify the theoretical structure. I enjoyed the analyzing process that they finally come up with the opinion that persona-scenarios should all have a happy-ending in order to provide more insight for design.

The only thing weak in this paper is the way they presented their case study. It is unclear in several critical points, for example, in what degree did these participants already knew about persona and persona-scenarios; at which stage of the workshop did they started to carry out group tasks; how much user research results were given in that “short text”? Without knowing these information, we could not fully trust on the authors conclusion about persona-scenarios couldn’t be well written without their guidelines. In another way, though good points were presented, the credibility of the paper is lowered due to lacking of these information.


One thought on “RAA: It’s hard to tell a good story — exploring persona-scenarios

  1. Mihaela

    Good RAA. It makes me want to read the paper. I have some doubts about taking the narrative part too far – to the point where it may be removed from the reality of design requirements.

    Your points are on Bb.


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