For the Web site redesign, we're interested in learning more about our users' behaviors and their motivations for coming to our site. One method of documenting the various types of users and groups accessing and using the site is through the use of personas. Personas are fictional individuals that represent users of your Web site or application. Personas typically include a fictional name of the user, demographics about the user, and their goals and motivations for coming and using your site.
Creating personas for Web site design is a common practice and is often initiated in the early discovery and analysis phases of a Web design project. Personas guide design teams, helping them stay focused on the end user and their goals. Throughout a design project, "designs can be constantly evaluated against the personas and disagreements over design decisions can be sorted by referring back to the personas." (usability.gov)
Personas are the result (and an artifact of) user research, often drawn from interviews and usability studies with end users. They may also be derived from secondary research. As we embark upon our Web site redesign, we're using a number of sources to create our personas. We've engaged an outside consulting firm who will conduct contextual interviews with our library users next week. To formulate our library personas, the consulting firm will work with the Libraries' Web redesign team to analyze interview data as well as research from other universities (see Cornell University Libraries, University of Washington Libraries and Macquarie University Library).