Guide to Patron Personas

An examination of the development and applications of User or Patron Personas in the WSULS.


Personas are “...detailed descriptions of imaginary people constructed out of well-understood, highly specified data about real people.”

Pruitt, J. S. and Adlin, T. (2006).  The Persona Lifecycle.  San Francisco: M. Kaufmann.

Why Personas?

"Personas are user archetypes created primarily to be design targets" because "having a stationary target in a non-stationary world is a first step to creating a holistic, useful and usable product."

Freydenson, Elan. (2002, March 12). Bringing your personas to life in real life. Retrieved from

Another Definition and Rationale

"A persona is a fake person constructed with real user research data to represent a class of target users."

"Designing for users is, after all, the essential foundation of user-centered design, so it makes sense to have a tool to help teams define their targets. You can’t hit a target if you don’t have one."

McKay, E. (2011, June 8). Personas: Dead yet?. [Web blog comment]. Retrieved from


Personas have a long history in Marketing.  They help identify and personalize target audiences.  Defining potential audiences, keeping visceral concepts of them in mind, allows marketers to communicate more effectively because they "know" to whom they are speaking.

Personas and Libraries

Library Use

Many Libraries, over the last few years, have formally recognized user experience as their mission and guiding focus.  Libraries, meaning Librarians and other Library Staff, have an implicit tradition of working with patron needs and service in mind.  Therefore, the shift toward user experience simply provides an enhanced perspective or vantage point.  Patron Personas are one of the many tools Libraries are using to develop or measure services and resources for optimum User Experience.

Examples of Hathi Trust Patron Personas

Patron Persona Example from HathiTrust

What is Usability?

Borrowed from: Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox: January 4, 2012                         Usability 101: Introduction to Usability

Nielsen Norman Group

Evidence-Based User Experience Research, Training, and Consulting


Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word "usability" also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.

Usability is defined by 5 quality components:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
  • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

There are many other important quality attributes. A key one is utility, which refers to the design's functionality: Does it do what users need?

Usability and utility are equally important and together determine whether something is useful: It matters little that something is easy if it's not what you want. It's also no good if the system can hypothetically do what you want, but you can't make it happen because the user interface is too difficult. To study a design's utility, you can use the same user research methods that improve usability.

  • Definition: Utility = whether it provides the features you need.
  • Definition: Usability = how easy & pleasant these features are to use.
  • Definition: Useful = usability + utility.

Why Usability is Important

On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a website is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website's information is hard to read or doesn't answer users' key questions, they leave. Note a pattern here? There's no such thing as a user reading a website manual or otherwise spending much time trying to figure out an interface. There are plenty of other websites available; leaving is the first line of defense when users encounter a difficulty.