User personas: how Jean is helping shape poole.gov.uk

I’d like you to meet Jean…Jean2

Jean is 72 and lives on her own in Oakdale, Poole.

She doesn’t own a computer, or use a smartphone but she often gets her daughter who lives nearby to look things up for her on the internet.

Recently Jean got a tablet from her daughter for Christmas. Jean loves gardening and is community minded.

Ok, so Jean isn’t real (as you can tell from my artwork!). Jean is one of several personas we have created to help us make sure the redesign of poole.gov.uk meets the needs of all our users.

We have used our data about the population of Poole and the people that use our current online services to create these personas.

Why personas are important

The reason we have created these personas is to put ourselves in the shoes of a selection of users and see if what we are building works for them.

For example: we decided that Jean only really uses the council’s services when she has an issue to report such as a blocked drain. So we tested our site using a tablet to see how Jean might feel when attempting to complete this task.

This has really helped us focus on the issues someone like Jean could face and how we could solve them.

We have deliberately chosen personas that cover our broad audience. These include:

  • people over the age of 70
  • people who are on a middle income and aged between 40 and 65
  • single parents who are on a low income
  • people who have a mental or physical disability
  • people who find reading difficult
  • people accessing our site using a range of devices.

With these we can ask ourselves a number of key questions:

  • is the user journey to this information or service straightforward?
  • is the content written in a way that would make sense to this user?
  • how does our user feel when they try to complete their task?

Personas are a good way of keeping the user and their needs in mind as we build our digital services, although they don’t replace contact with real people to research and test what we build.

There’s some great background reading about personas and how to create them on Usability.gov

Claire Ryan-East
Data Analyst and Digital Support Officer