Friday, January 13, 2012

Personality Traits

When working on a project it is not uncommon to produce a persona, a persona is like a generalization of a group of people that can be reflected into one character that exhibits those common traits. It is often the result of user research. that looks at many working individuals in a specific task and considers what is common to them all. What things they share in motivation and emotional feeling in performing a task is important for user experience design. This can be very useful for planning next steps, for product or software development, as it helps to evaluate a feature or service against a list of people that might use the system. It can also help when rationalizing user experience design concepts, and bring the designs empathetic mind inline with the target user, when creatively conceptualizing. Personas are a very useful tool in the discovery stage of a project, especially if the project is going to move into the hands of a creative type that will need to empathize with a potential consumer or user.

When working on a persona, and when studying people for projects it is useful to think about personality traits and psychology has produce many fascinating studies in this area, that give a good foundation of knowledge to have in mind when working on products and concepts for people. Personality can greatly influence the way you might approach the problem. For example, making a product for an extrovert is vastly different than an introvert personality type, and if something requires any social interaction, then care must be taken to cater to the right crowd of personalities. The level of public display and private information people are willing to share and talk about will differ depending on target users and what the goal of the service or application is. People and their personalities are valuable information for any designer to understand.

A couple of my favorite summaries of personality include Myers-Briggs and OCEAN(the big 5).

Myers-Briggs breaks people's personalities up as follows:

Extraversion (E) -(I) Introversion
Sensing (S) -(N) Intuition
Thinking (T) -(F) Feeling
Judgement (J) -(P) Perception

These types can be combined into 16 possible combinations. Each would exhibit different personality traits and reflect a different type of person.

The other is the OCEAN, which stands for openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The idea behind each of these classifications is that most people can be evaluated against these traits and from that you can make assumptions about how that person may behave under certain conditions and in in certain situations. Narcissists and extroverted people are good examples of extreme cases of personality types, that can be designed against.

Each of these classifications covers a broad set of people and all though of course everyone is an individual and will respond in context and situations differently, these documented personality types real help form a good impression of key personality types and help designers empathize with someone whom might be using their design.

These are only tools and in design of course we don't always want to restrict our end design to one type of person, but if you are looking for insight into behavior and characteristics then these two evaluation approaches really help.

For example, lets say we are designing for an extroverted personality type then here are some of the key characteristics they might portray versus an introverted personality.

  • Extraverts are action oriented, while introverts are thought oriented.
  • Extraverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence.
  • Extraverts often prefer more frequent interaction, while introverts prefer more substantial interaction.
  • Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.

extraverted people tend to think and say things like

  • I am the life of the party.
  • I don't mind being the center of attention.
  • I feel comfortable around people.
  • I start conversations.
  • I talk to a lot of different people at parties.

These notes would be very helpful in designing a product or service for people that exhibit very extroverted personalities. Or if you wanted to encourage more extroverted behavior from people then these would be important features to add to the experience to enhance those types of experience and personality types.

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