Design Personas

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These are the four use cases that we suspect will be most common on Dreamwidth, based on our experience with LJ and our concept of who we think is going to be using DW. We'll be revisiting these use cases after the first year of public availability, to see whether how people are actually using the site bears any resemblance to how we think people are going to be using the site. We may also come back and add to them, although we'd ideally like to keep it simple (no more than five).

Until that time, though, we'll be using these use cases to design new features and plan updates to the old ones. The ideal change (or new feature) will:

  • please at least two out of the four of these use cases
  • please or be neutral for at least three out of the four use cases
  • mildly annoy no more than one out of the four use cases (and ideally, none of them)
  • piss off none of the four use cases

We've personalized them, just because it's easier that way. (And no, we don't think our users will be entirely female, but since LJ and LJ clone sites tend to skew more female than male, we're using female pronouns.) Most users will display elements of more than one use case at any given time, too; nobody fits entirely into one persona and one alone, which is why new features should be majority-favorable.

(If you'd like to add detail to any of the wants/doesn't want/will be angry/will be happy, feel free!)

See also: Accessibility Personas at Dive Into Accessibility by Mark Pilgrim

User Personas

Betty (Broadcast)

Betty tends to use the service as a blogging platform, and avoids or downplays the social networking factor. She is interested most in sharing what she has to say, while she cares less about hearing what others think. For her, the value of the service is that it offers her a platform and a potential built-in audience. She posts frequently -- several times a week, at minimum -- with different types of assets (essays, fiction, photography, etc), but rarely answers her comments, and maintains a small friends list (where she rarely comments to her friends). She doesn't tend to participate in communities, although she might read a few here and there to find inspiration for what she wants to produce. She's learned to use the service's tools that she wants most, but doesn't care about all the bells and whistles; she just wants it to work, without having to learn all the little fiddly options.

Goals: To have an audience. To get people to view her content.

Motivations: Betty gets a sense of reward from being spoken highly of in whatever targeted audience she's speaking to. She wants to be considered an authority in her field. Often, she's looking for social credibility beyond the service (in the greater blogosphere, in her profession, etc).

Needs: Good posting interface, posting options, and asset management (entries, photography, etc). Good integration of content from other sites.

Wants: Simple, easy design with clearly-defined task flows. A simple process of making and managing entries. The ability to organize her content.

Will Get Angry If: We make things too complicated; we concentrate too hard on the social-networking and discovery features to the detriment of the entry/asset management; we make her feel like she doesn't own her content or that her posting ability is threatened/censored in any way.

Will Be Happy If: We provide her powerful tools to post and manage her content; we make it easy for her to tell who's viewing her content and how often; we make it possible for her to notify others (friends, colleagues, search engines) that she's posted content.

Ivy (Inward)

Ivy is here for her friends and family, and places a high value on the privacy tools the service offers. She isn't speaking to a larger audience; she's fanatical about knowing precisely who's reading her, and wants absolute granular control over what privacy options she selects. To an outsider (one who isn't on her access lists), she might appear as though she's not participating on the service at all; her journal is locked, she rarely comments or participates outside of her first-order network, and while she might participate in communities, they are often locked communities. She knows the service's privacy options inside and out, but won't use them if they don't answer her desire to be invisible to people she doesn't trust. Even when she's posting publicly, she wants to know where her data's going; she views the service as a gated community and often doesn't feel that "public" is "public to the entire internet". She may have multiple journals for different purposes, to control who can see what.

Goals: To minimize her internet footprint to people she hasn't identified, vetted, and decided she trusts.

Motivations: She likes being social on the service, but only to a small group of people; either she feels easily overwhelmed by the prospect of being social, or she's been burned before by her words/content/participation being used against her.

Needs: Excellent privacy tools with multiple layers of access and control. Easy privacy management features.

Wants: The ability to know who's reading her content, and under what circumstances. Privacy options on all aspects of her data. A sense of security.

Will Get Angry If: We release features with no privacy options; we do something that makes her think we're "giving away" her data to another company, a search engine, etc; we don't clearly explain or show where data's going, who can read it, and how it's being used.

Will Be Happy If: We make her feel like she has total control over her information; we make it easy for her to specify who can read what; she feels she can trust us to respect her privacy choices; we release new features at the most restrictive privacy option and let people choose to be more permissive if they want.

Lisa (Lurker)

You'd never know Lisa was here; her journal is often empty, except for her reading list, and she's here to consume other people's content. She comments sometimes (if she feels comfortable doing so), but mostly she's the invisible woman: she reads entries and communities, passively, without contributing. If you make it easy for her to interact with others in a low-key, low-pressure situation, she might. Then again, she might not.

Goals: To find interesting content to read in a low-key, no-pressure sort of situation.

Motivations: She's shy, or she doesn't care enough, or she uses the service as a distraction when she has a few minutes here and there and she drifts in and out. She likes having things to read, but she doesn't place a high value on interaction, and often feels uncomfortable if she's placed in a situation where she feels like she's expected to.

Needs: Good content discovery. Good "invisible subscriptions" -- the ability to bookmark/receive notices of updates/etc without the content owner being notified that she's reading.

Wants: Some way to feedback a creator without social pressure; a low-key way of interacting.

Will Get Angry If: We build a feature where she feels like she's being forced to participate; we do something that makes her feel like she's being required to provide content; we make her think she's a second-class user because she doesn't update her journal.

Will Be Happy If: We let her lurk to her heart's content, but still feel like she's not being ignored when she has something to say; we make it easy for her to find things she's interested in reading; we don't aggressively push her to high-commitment things like making entries; we offer a sliding-scale of interaction that will let her participate when she feels like it without feeling like she's being pushed to do more.

Patty (Passionate)

Patty eats, sleeps, and breathes social media and the service; she's integrated it into her entire life. She makes frequent posts and comments, participates in a number of communities, and spends hours a day on the service. She knows the service's tools inside and out, and can customize them to her purposes easily. She uses every possible method of interacting with the service (such as mobile devices) to make sure she doesn't miss anything. She generally posts a mix of public & private content, and likes making new friends but also likes being able to restrict her participation to just people she already knows. She often has multiple conversations going on. She is the most likely to maintain ties to multiple subcultures and cross over those subcultures' boundaries easily. She is the most likely to maintain multiple journals for different purposes, or to start and run a community.

Goals: To interact with other people and build & nurture relationships; to remain connected 24/7.

Motivations: She likes the sense of connection she gets from having a large friends list, a broad selection of communities, and a number of conversations going on at once.

Needs: The ability to compartmentalize her use of the service (let people only subscribe to certain tags, etc). The ability to access the site through multiple entry points (email, mobile). Good commenting and interaction functions and features.

Wants: Good community management tools. Easy management of multiple journals. Good discovery of new people/content/communities. The ability to organize and arrange her content so people from multiple subcultures can find that they're looking for most easily.

Will Get Angry If: We do something that makes one of her subcultures feel threatened or marginalized; we release a feature that she feels is "dumbed down"; we make it hard for her to integrate her presence on other sites into her presence here.

Will Be Happy If: We give her as many options as possible in how she interacts with the site and integrates features into her daily use; we make it easy for her to find and organize content; we give her ways to provide feedback on how the service will be run and make sure we respect her input even if we don't always agree with her.


These are also, broadly speaking, "users" of the site, in that they will use the site to further their ends. Since their goals are the control and harassment of legitimate users, all new features or feature changes should be reviewed against these users to see how they'd be exploited.

In particular, any new feature that can be used to contact someone should respect a ban; any feature which collects or exposes the user's information should let the user know what information is being collected and where it's going to be stored and displayed.

Annette (Abusive)

Annette has physical access to her girlfriend's computer, phone, iPad, and possibly the password to the verified email account. She wants to know everything about what's going on in her girlfriend's life. She searches the internet for mentions of her own name and her girlfriend's name, and (if she knows about it) monitors her girlfriend's account closely for any clue that her girlfriend might be talking privately with other people and/or planning an escape.

All destructive features should include the possibility that it's someone with access to the user's account, and not the user themselves, who is operating them. However, it may also be necessary for users evading Annette to voluntarily delete information that would put them at further risk. Certain significant changes to the account (including adding additional trusted email addresses, changing the password) should generate noisy notifications so the user will know if their account has been accessed in their absence.

Someone evading Annette will want to communicate privately with trusted friends while leaving as few traces as possible. She will want to know where her activities are visible and what information is there, so she can manage her risks appropriately.

Edith (Ex, Stalker)

Edith knows her ex-girlfriend's maiden name, the city her girlfriend was born in, and the answer to almost every other security question. Edith knows her ex's usual usernames, and her ex's entire circle of friends.

Since Edith no longer has reliable daily access to harass her ex in person, she has switched to online harassment, but may use location information to pay a (possibly violent) visit to the ex's current location. She will check the accounts of friends of her ex to see if they have posted any information, or if they have any new contacts that might be a new secret account created by her ex.

Edith will examine every new feature to see if there's a way to contact her ex via it, or get more information: sending virtual gifts for the purpose of being menacing, voting in polls to remind her ex that she's watching, replying to comments made in communities or other journals even when banned, "like"-ing tragic updates, creating accounts with objectionable usernames for the purpose of vandalizing her ex's profile, and starting fake accounts designed to lure her ex into granting access. She will maliciously report her ex for spam or other Terms of Service violation. She may use multiple accounts for reporting and/or ask others to join in the harassment campaign.

Assume that Edith will exploit any possible means of contact, and will find a bad use for any information shared about the user. Assume that any means of enforcement will sometimes be used as mechanisms of harassment.

Someone evading Edith is engaged in the delicate dance of avoiding active contact with Edith, while still keeping aware in case Edith starts showing signs that the stalking or violence is about to escalate.

Mackenzie (Mob)

Mackenzie is very upset with this particular user. Madison, Maya, Maria, and Madelyn are too. As well as a few hundred of their friends. Perhaps all they want to do is tell the user that she's been wrong on the internet. Perhaps they're planning to bombard her with shock images and share her personal details far and wide so the rest of the mob can attack her.

Mackenzie and friends may have a passing interest, or they may be settling in for a campaign of long-term harassment.

Someone targeted by Mackenzie wants to be able to keep in contact with their closest friends during the attack, without exposing themselves further or coming in contact with the harassment.

Spring (Spammer)

Spring has something to promote and will let nothing stop her.

Likes: funneling people toward another site for sales, scams, or malware.

Tricia (Troll)

Tricia thinks upsetting people is hilarious.

Tricia may have a specific user she likes to torment, or she may target popular communities or the site-wide latest entries page. She knows the rules well enough to not get her account terminated, but she will test the limits of any new feature to see if there's a way to be obnoxious with it.

Individuals and communities targeted by Tricia have a number of tools to stop her. Tricia relies on being able to do a lot of obnoxious things in a short timespan, before she's caught and blocked.

Look at any feature which lets users contact each other and think about how it could become obnoxious or overwhelming. Does there need to be rate limiting? Does it respect a ban?