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As a user experience researcher supporting the PatternFly project, I’m currently researching and developing personas that represent the typical PatternFly user or contributor. Personas are fictional, often alliteratively named, representations of your users. They are based on similarities gleaned from quantitative and qualitative research on users’ habits, motivations, and work contexts.

While I will do more in-depth research by interviewing users in the very near future, I wanted to have an initial draft of the personas available to get a sense of whether actual users see themselves in the descriptions. Digging around in various sources of information about users and roles, I found enough insights to kick off an initial draft. The sources I started with include:

  • Existing personas: Reuse what we have already learned about similar user types.
  • Interview transcripts: A brief, pithy quote direct from the mouth of a user often encapsulates their intentions far better than 1000 words from the interviewer.
  • Mailing list archives: Who is writing to the PatternFly mailing list? What are they asking about or discussing?
  • LinkedIn: Seeing what similar users studied, how long they have been doing their role, what their career path has been like.
  • Job descriptions: What do employers think these types of users should be doing?

Looking through all this information from dozens of actual users shook out three, possibly four, similar roles: front-end developer, a back-end developer who needs to do front-end development, and a designer (which may need to be broken out into interaction designer and visual designer). Personas can include any kind of information, from what kind of laptop they use to what kind of pet they have, but they work best when you focus on areas that help you understand the problem you are solving for that type of user. For each PatternFly persona, I noted points in these categories: background/tools, goals (motivations), pain points, “a day in the life.”



Organization of the persona information


Once the first draft was solid, I ran it by a few teammates to make sure these were heading down the right path. Through these discussions, it became obvious that the idea of “open source contributor” was important to include, but isn’t so much a persona as much as it is a role that each of these personas takes on at various points. Each persona has times when they are consumers of PatternFly (reading content, downloading examples) and times when they are contributors (participating in the mailing list, writing patterns, submitting code), and their actions and motivations in each case would be very different. To date, searches for persona-like research done on open source contributors have proven less than fruitful.

And that, my friends, is where we are today. I invite you to peruse the draft and think on your own PatternFly experiences and those of people you have collaborated with. As you do, ponder these questions as well:

  • Are interaction designer and visual designer separate personas?
  • Are there any personas that are missing?  What about high-level roles like architects?
  • Can you recommend any good articles or research written about what it is like to be an open source contributor?

So, do you see yourself in these personas?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.


Edited to add a link to the ODP version of the personas. If you use the file to write your own personas, let us know — we’d love to see what you create.

5 Responses to “Many users, few personas”

  1. Great post, exciting that PatternFly is sharing this with the community too! Would you mind sharing the ODP that this presentation was created in?

    For open source contributor, I wonder if it would be valuable to consider by form of contribution (e.g. promotion, documentation, code)? I’ll have to think more about this. Hm.

    • +1 I think the motivations of an open source designer vs developer vs writer, etc are different. Think PatternFly would benefit with starting at least breaking up a OS designer and developer.

    • Sarahjane Clark

      Thank you for reading and commenting! Not being a visual designer, I snagged a nice-looking persona template that happened to be in Google Docs, but it should be pretty easy to port over to ODP — I’ll give it a go today.

      • Turned out to be easier than I expected (don’t you love when that happens?). I’ve edited the post to include a link to the ODP version of the file.

        • Sorry for the delay, just opened the ODP version and it works great. Look forward to using this as a starting point and will let you know what we make!


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