Persona Interviews for Web Site Redesign (2010) | User Studies


As part of the redesign process for the Libraries' Web site, the Libraries developed personas, fictional portrayals of users in different patron categories. These personas were designed to enable the Web design teams to both understand users' behavior and to view the site from the users' perspective. Being able to reference the personas as representative Web site users would enable the design teams to better meet the needs of library patrons. To assist with creating the personas, a consulting firm ( was hired to both analyze research from other universities, and to collect user data through a series of contextual interviews. From these data the firm created and presented to the Libraries the finished personas.

Team and Partners

  • Angela Ballard, study coordinator, minder and observer
  • Susan Teague Rector, study coordinator, minder and observer
  • Babi Hammond, participant recruitment
  • Susan Pauley, observation and participant recruitment
  • Alice Williams,
  • Abe Crystal, More Better Labs(This link is broken. We're working on fixing it)

Recruitment and Interview Procedures

The first step in participant recruitment involved establishing the target audiences that stakeholders wanted to be represented in these studies. From here, the process involved further narrowing down the ideal demographics criteria for participants. With assistance from the consulting firm, the next step was to create a standard list of screening questions to be asked of potential participants.

Libraries staff members were assigned the responsibility of recruiting participants. Potentially interested faculty members were identified, and a list of names and departments of randomly selected faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students was also provided by Registration & Records. Six standard email scripts were generated and emailed to potential participants at stages in the recruitment process. Additionally, possible recruits from the random list were telephoned and selected using the standard list of screening questions. A recruitment flyer was also created and handed out to students in the library's common areas, as well as being placed in public areas throughout the library.

A spreadsheet containing contact information and departments or fields of study was maintained during the recruitment process. Contact information, participant responses, and level of interest in participation were continually updated.

The eight interviewees chosen were representative of the populations of users the Libraries serve, and included NCSU undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff members. Interviews were conducted in the location where the interviewee stated he or she performs most of his or her research; this location was either a dorm room, an office, or a space within the library. Interviewees were asked a series of questions specific to each population group from interview guides provided by the consulting firm. Questions pertained to interviewees' background information, their computer usage, their academics, their use of the physical library, as well as their use of the library Web site.

Each interview session was attended by the participant, the interviewer (a consultant), and one minder or observer from the Libraries. The consultant digitally recorded each interview session while the minder or observer took notes to be later transcribed. Sessions lasted no longer than one hour and participants were compensated for their time.


Once data were analyzed, four primary personas and three secondary personas were created. Primary personas included a first-year undergraduate, a fourth-year undergraduate, a fourth-year PhD student, and a professor of bioanalytical chemistry.

Based on compiled interviewee data, each of these personas included a fictional name, user demographics ('fast facts'), and a photograph. Each persona also included reasons the patron commonly accesses the physical library or library Web site, his or her typical research process, and challenges he or she commonly faces in using library resources.

With these personas, the design teams are now able to see the design from the perspective of several users representative of this diverse population. They can view web site tools and features from the perspective of realistic users rather than from designers' own limited perspectives.

Project Links

Last updated: April 2010