mode mapping and personas

Whew! My research team has finally completed our interviews for the urban gardening project. It has been a big effort to organize and conduct the interviews, and we have gathered an amazing amount of information on our subject. I have a few hours of organizing the notes ahead of me, in preparation of the synthesis work we need to do for the next phase of the project. The process of taking the disparate data and finding patterns feels onerous, I will admit. I have already found some preliminary findings and patterns, but I know that I need to got though the synthesis phase to confirm my assumptions, and discover other, perhaps more subtle, connections I haven’t seen yet.

I love the article on Mode Mapping by Ron Pierce at Karten Design, he is so honest about the challenges designers and researchers face in communicating research findings. A slide deck of bullet points, however enticing and intriguing the statements, is not the best method for communicating to any stakeholder, be it a C-level executive or a junior interaction designer. ModeMapping is a visual structure that depicts human behavior in visual story lines, highlighting time/place/opportunity patterns for possible innovations. I love the visual nature of the maps, because I can quickly get an overview of time span, major activities, priorities and state of mind for a persona, and then compare these elements across personas. This would be very difficult to do through writing, and it literally shows the research in an objective manner, which can then be synthesized through comparison. I think the time span we will look at will be different than a daily snapshot, as urban gardening has a different rhythm, more seasonal.

I’m also looking forward to creating personas from the notes we have gathered. It will be easier to distill the 15 people we interviewed into 3 or 4 archetypes than try to work with all 15 simultaneously. And creating personas is fun! Snitker & Co. created a great 10-step process to creating personas that will be very helpful. What I like about their approach is that it is very methodical. I have only created completely fictional personas before, so it will be nice to have some guidelines and a process for culling notes to create personas based on research. I found doing the research to be a profoundly human experience, and it would be a shame to lose that empathetic quality moving into the synthesis. I think personas will help us keep the people we interviewed top of mind.