UX Advice from Men in Black

Why including your weird-shit-o-mere scale makes personas less alien.

The final fight scene

In one of my all-time favourite action comedies, Will Smith plays the lead role of new blood Jay.  His mentor Kay, Tommy Lee Jones, guides Jay through a turbulent induction in which Kay bags, tags and systematically categorises the aliens that come and go from our planet without anyone ever knowing. Here’s a clip from the final fight scene in which I learned a useful UX trick that can enhance your personas.

In product development and UX we build personas. They are tools to help us describe and understand our users. Their demographic, user role, psychometrics etc. It’s a pretty bog standard list of things we capture. Similarly, Kay describes aliens in ways that are generic to all living things, diet, size, strength and attitude.

But Jay our protagonist does something different. He curates his own metric, the weird-shit-o-meter. It’s one that captures the characteristics better than any other but only really works for them. He’s not applying this scale to his colleagues or the pie he eats, it really is bespoke to his personas.

A more tangible example when working for a food tech company my personas were ranked on a foodie scale from not a foodie to ‘post hipster foodie’. From adventurous to safe. These scales were pretty meaningless to a banking persona or an oil and gas persona but really defined our users well and helped build this shared understanding of how our user behaved in relation to our subject matter.

So go out and add your own scales to your personas, they can even help when grouping personas and they make them more engaging.

Image by Paragmpatre at en.wikipedia [CC BY 2.5, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

TYIT Ltd provides a full stack UX consultancy that designs accessible digital services. We've helped complex organisations like BEIS and DfE achieve digital transformation by running Lean and Agile discovery processes.

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