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Personas: Understanding HathiTrust Users

By Jenny Emmanuel, HathiTrust User Experience Advisory Group

The HathiTrust User Experience Advisory Group recently released a set of “personas” depicting typical users of HathiTrust Digital Library.  Personas are aggregate statements that display information about typical users and their needs.  They are a commonly used usability method that collects data from multiple sources, including website analytics, search logs, first person stories, researcher observations, and other methods which are then aggregated into a narrative to depict stories depicting who HathiTrust users are and how they used the information within HathiTrust. 

Personas are typically used throughout the development process so that staff working on the HathiTrust interfaces, communicating with users, and librarians can have a shared idea who it is that uses the Hathi.  With personas, they can easily keep the end user in mind while they are improving HathiTrust, developing support materials, developing user education programs, or many other uses.

The HathiTrust User Experience Advisory Group worked on the personas for several months, with the additional help of the University of Michigan’s User Experience Department.  The group gathered information from analytics, anecdotes from HathiTrust partners, various online publications about HathiTrust (blogs, articles, comments, etc.), reports from similar projects, and user feedback to identify major groups who use HathiTrust for research.  These data sources led to the creation of seven distinct groups of both academic and non-academic researchers, each of which became the basis of one of the personas. The collected data was then collated between each of these groups and then written as a narrative with a generic use case, a given identity, and a stock image to give each persona a personal touch.  Even though the personas appear to be of actual people and actual use, it should be noted that each persona is fictional, but supported by collected evidence.

The HathiTrust personas are used to guide further development of HathiTrust. They are also being utilized by the HathiTrust Communications Working group in their publicity and educational materials related to HathiTrust.

To view the personas, see: http://www.hathitrust.org/personas.

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