Week 2 Design: Personas & Plot


Welcome to Week 2!

In Week 1, you started out as a VR user yourself so you could practice the fundamentals of evaluating VR experiences, and communicating the value of those experiences among/to other users. This week, you will start to think more explicitly (as a designer) about your target users, and begin to practice more precise language to communicate your ideas. This week, we learn about personas and plot, and why you need them in your design-thinking process.

In the design-thinking process, we focus every decision on our users. We ask: “What do the users want? What do they need?” When designing VR, the question might be “what do my VR users want or need out of this VR experience?” At this stage, you might say “I don’t know” or “There are too many possible users! How can I make them all happy?” But those are questions we have to answer for you to be successful. Without focus, you will not make a successful VR experience.

There is a design process for answering these questions:

Personify your user. Instead of thinking of users (plural; a group of people), create a fictional user and pretend to be designing the experience for that person. This is called a persona. When we make personas, we make better decisions when we are better able to empathize with them as the future user. It’s also much easier to think of a specific person when deciding what features are needed. To be clear, a persona is not a “plain vanilla” conglomeration of all of potential users. No! Your persona is unique, even quirky! When we think of one specific (even though fake) person, we can begin to imagine their emotions as they experience our VR. It may seem counterintuitive to focus on one user when we know we are designing for many, but we are much more alike than we are different. When we plan for the emotions of one person, we are (not so secretly) planning for the emotions of every user. Think about how powerful that is: if you plan for one specific person (so long as the persona is intentionally designed and correctly used), you should end up taking into account the broad needs of many.

The second design element that you need is your planned VR experience’s plot. Narrative plot is the story that will bring your user into, and through, your experience. Plot explains to the user what they are to do within your experience, what the goal is, and it encourages them to try to achieve the goal, to persevere, and it provides the rewards of accomplishment.