Technical Report 2006-049

The User as a Personality: A Reflection on the Theoretical and Practical Use of Personas in HCI Design

Stefan Blomkvist

November 2006

A persona is a user model that focuses on the individual's goals in interaction. The model resembles classical user profiles, but with some important distinctions. The persona represents patterns of users' behaviour and goals. The concept has a focus on practical interaction design and is not based on a theoretical HCI perspective, although it implies a distinctive perspective on the role of users and interaction. The purpose of this paper is to examine how this concept relates to some theoretical perspectives on users and interaction. One such theory that I discuss is activity theory, which share the emphasis on that interaction is driven by users' motives and goals. But activity theory is a more elaborated framework for studying activities. The conclusion is that personas have a narrower perspective on users and activities compared to activity theory, but this also makes it more easy to use as a tool to direct design. Also, the role of the user in the persona approach is blurred with the role as a consumer. The issue of interaction design becomes a matter of satisfying the needs of the consumers, not to improve human work and life.

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