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To be completed the week of November 27, 2017.



Working together in small groups, students will compare their own identities and preferences with that of a provided sample persona. Each group will then work together to create a single new persona drawn from some of their own traits. The result: a single cumulative persona (per group) that is representative of a BVI Afterglow user. Using the persona data as a starting point, students then fill in the Scenario Template. Going through the scenario building process will help students understand how to place their personas in a feasible situation and build a story around the user’s experience. 



Understanding the user is key to the User-Centered Design Process. Personas help designers to empathize with users and better envision the user experience. Each persona provides concrete details about the identity and preferences of a specific type of user. Design teams then use those details to guide their designs.

Designers tell stories through scenarios. Scenarios describe typical user experiences, transforming abstract personas into people with whom the designers can empathize and, most importantly, place within a realistic context of use, i.e. a specific event during the user’s day-to-day life.


30-45 minute in-class activity.


  • Persona Template
  • Scenario Template


  • Gather sample personas and scenario to share with student groups.


  • Students will be able to describe a persona and scenario in the context of the user-centered design process.
  • Students acquire a basic understanding of the role of personas and scenarios in the IDATA Project.


  1. Instructor puts students into small groups and gives each group a persona and scenario template.
  2. Persona: Students within each group move through each category indicated on the persona, comparing their own personal data with that of the sample. (i.e. hobbies, social networks used, interest in astronomy, etc.)
  3. After comparing their diverse answers, each group works together to select one answer for each category, thus constructing a single representative BVI persona. They enter this data to create a finished persona. (5 minutes)
  4. Scenario: Using the existing persona data as a starting point, students then work in groups to fill out the Scenario Template. They should strive to create a realistic situation in which the persona uses the current version of Afterglow to complete a specific task. (5 minutes).
  5. Each group shares their persona and scenario with the class. The instructor asks all the groups to silently identify persona/scenarios that contrast with their own as they listen to the presentations. (10 minutes)

Note: If there are not enough groups to make this next step feasible, move on to the Engagement Questions.

6. Once the presentations have ended, the instructor asks groups to join together to form as many sets of 3 contrasting personas/scenarios as possible. (This portion of the exercise may be fairly chaotic. The class will end up with several sets of contrasting personas/scenarios, but also random personas/scenarios that repeat similar experiences.) (5 minutes)

7. Once the sets have been organized, ask a few of the sets to explain how they contrast. The instructor then explains that design teams often attempt to create a set of three personas/scenarios that represent a range of experiences. Then they design to meets the needs of all three personas.

8. Instructor leads discussion using Engagement Questions. (5-10 minutes)


  1. How might you design a software platform differently for a persona who was sighted versus a persona who was BVI?
  2. Why would the IDATA design team want to involve you in the creation of personas and scenarios?
  3. What did you learn by creating a persona and a scenario? [how to capture a user through details, how designers and researchers document and focus on user needs, how a different context/environment could change the needs of the user, etc.]
  4. Often, researchers use observation and research to create personas that differ greatly from themselves. Can you think of any projects/activities that you might be involved in at school or outside of school in which a persona might be useful? For example, perhaps, you volunteer at a food pantry and need to better understand the people you serve so that you might put together more useful food packages.



Once the activity is completed, instructors or team leaders organize the results, document any provocative discussion points, and submit back to Yerkes for use by the design team.



Personas: Read more about personas online. Select a project/activity that you are working on inside or outside of school that engages with specific users. Research the target audience of the project/activity. This research might include interviewing your users, observing them engaging with your project/activity, or looking for existing market research on the demographic. Consider what types of information would be useful to include to better serve their needs in your project/activity. Create a persona based on what you discover and then use that persona to guide your project/activity.


Scenarios: Research scenarios further online to better understand their role in the UCD process. Using the persona/scenario create by your group, come up with concepts for a wearable object that will help alleviate one of the frustrations identified in the scenario.



Designers use personas to empathize with users and better understand their needs. The IDATA team needs your help constructing representative personas of BVI users of Afterglow Access.

Below is a sample persona of a BVI astronomy student. As a group, discuss your individual responses to each section of the highlighted text. Then, working as a group, select one of your answers for each category. Construct a new persona made up of your combined responses. Notice how the sections provide useful information for the redesign of Afterglow. A persona created for a different project might include different types of information.

First Name: [Sally]

Grade Level and School: [high school junior at Daniels High School].

Location: [Madison, WI.]

Age: [17]

Lives with: [her parents, two brothers and three dogs.]

Dreams of: [wants to be an astrophysicist ]

Visual Impairment: [Marshall Syndrome]

Symptoms of Visual Impairment: [A prosthetic left eye; vision limited in right eye. Functioning eye has glaucoma and is highly myopic. Does not have very effective peripheral vision]

Assistive tech Used: [screen readers, zoom and speech recognition. Does not know braille]

Most Common Devices Used: [laptop and smartphone]

Social Networks: [Facebook, Twitter]

Hobbies/Interests: [loves dogs, plays piano]

Uses Afterglow to: [to complete astronomy assignments at computer lab at school]

The environment where you use Afterglow: [a computer lab. The desktop computers are all lined up on tables. The lighting is not great.]

Frustration with Software/Apps/Websites: [wish it worked better with her screen reader. Has to move through too many features to get to ones that she wants to use.]

Likes Software/Apps/Websites that are: [well organized and easy to navigate using keyboard shortcuts ]



Designers construct stories, called scenarios, that describe the persona using the design (in this case Afterglow Access) to complete a task in a real-life environment. Draw from your group members’ experiences as users of software, apps and websites, and the data from the Persona Template, to fill out the Scenario Template. Try to create a scenario that expresses your persona’s user experience as accurately as possible, thus helping the IDATA team better understand your persona’s needs.

Feel free to add details and even additional sentences to better express what your persona goes through.

[First name] is a [age] [grade level] from [city, state]. One Tuesday, at [time] she begins working on an astronomy assignment to search for asteroids on a [device] in [location]. As a result of his/her [visual impairment], he/she often has trouble [symptom of impairment]. He/she often navigates the [device] using [navigation strategy]. One of his/her biggest frustrations when using software or websites on the computer is [an inaccessible computer task], he/she grows frustrated when he/she tries to [computer task] by [strategy for completing the step]. This makes him/her feel [expression of feelings]. He/she just wants to [the access desired].

Sally is a 17-year-old junior from Crystal Springs, Montana. One Tuesday, at 1:00 PM she begins working on an astronomy assignment to search for asteroids on a 27” iMac in the school computer lab. As a result of her myopia, she often has trouble seeing small details. She often navigates the computer using keyboard shortcuts. One of her biggest frustrations as a when using software or websites on the computer is the lack of image descriptions, She grows frustrated when she tries to see images more clearly by zooming in. This makes her feel tired. She just wants to to be able to use her screenreader to access the same level of detail as her sighted classmates.

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