User modelling: personas and scenarios

During the design phase for a website, application, etc., the first stage involves defining the tool’s users. During this stage, which is also known as “user modelling”, information is collected on the potential users (based on segmentation, user profiles, surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.), taking into account aspects such as their information needs, experience or knowledge.

Personas and scenarios are two techniques that let designers and developers come up with and implement solutions for the tool that take into account specific people, with specific profiles, skills and needs.

The solutions implemented respond to real users and real needs.


Personas are descriptions for standard users of the tool. The descriptions use a narrative form and give the figures a specific identity. Some of the details to be included are:

  • geographic profile
  • demographic profile
  • psychosocial profile
  • the relationship between the persona and the product
  • the level of relationship between the persona and the application


Scenarios describe the interaction between a persona and the application in a particular situation and with specific aims. In other words, they reflect tasks that users have to develop and the context in which these are developed. The scenarios are described in a direct narrative form.

Here at the UOC Library, we have recently started to work on offering contents and services via mobile devices. With this mind, we have defined personas and scenarios that will let us work on the mobile website and the mobile application for Library contents and services while keeping real users in mind.


Here are our personas:


Mobile Library Personas


Original document (full version): http://hdl.handle.net/10609/38981 (Spanish version).

Related links: Human-Computer Interaction learning materials, in UOC OpenCourseWare (Spanish version).



The user-centred library

The only way you can offer users a great service is if you know what they need and, thus, provide the services and contents that might be of use to them and do so in a way that is as usable as possible.

There are many ways to get to know your users. Here at the UOC Library we periodically carry out a series of actions to obtain this information that we need to be able to offer the best possible service.

  • User tests. This is one of the tools that best help find out about users, their information consumption and browsing habits, etc. User tests are carried out to assess the usability of the tools on offer. Likewise, all the user tests and surveys carried out at the University are monitored and analysed to gain the widest, most comprehensive profile possible.
  • Analysis of the Library Replies service. Every three months, we analyse the queries received by the Library Replies service, the Library’s user help service. This analysis helps detect the main problems users have and assess any possible actions to resolve them – for example, whether to improve the description of a service or highlight certain information or features.
  • Analysis of resource use. We periodically analyse the usage data for the electronic resources and the tools to manage them (the Library website, discovery tool, link resolver) and look at the search terms used. These data let us improve the different ways of accessing resources such as the recommended links from classrooms, pre-configured subject searches, resources of interest, etc.
  • Feedback from faculty. The subject librarians are also in regular touch with the faculty at the different departments which lets them keep track of their needs and proposals for resources and services – for example, whether they need to jointly produce a selection of resources for subject areas or improve access to resources from the virtual classrooms, etc.
  • Analysis of use of the Library’s website. We monitor the pages that are most and least visited, user browsing behaviour, sources of access to contents, etc.


User-centered strategy image
All these activities and the data they provide form part of an analysis, assessment and action design process for continuous improvement and adaptation to user needs and the changes in these needs brought on by the evolution of the University’s teaching.


Recently, and coinciding with the start of the new semester and academic year, the UOC Library added to the collection of training videos for users on its website. Ten new short videos subtitled in three languages (Catalan, English and Spanish) have been added. They offer specific training on Library services and resources (loans and databases), on searching for specialist information (theses, patents and statistical data) and on information management.

This is further proof of the UOC Library’s firm commitment to self-training and audiovisuals to help users both when it comes to using the Library’s services and resources and to basic information skills that allow them to find, use and manage information themselves.

We feel that multimedia – which in most cases takes the form of short videos involving screencasts and subtitles, what we call knowledge pills – is the format that best meets the current training needs of our users.

We remain committed to offering this kind of training and trust that we will be able to add to the catalogue of videos in response to the needs and suggestions of our users.

All these videos, and all the other training videos, can be found in the “How it works” section of the Library website: http://biblioteca.uoc.edu/en/how-it-works.



Are you interested in knowing open or freely online information resources in the field of Law and legislation?

In the UOC Virtual Library website, we’ve just included the Open Law Resources dossier to gather the main open o freely accessible resources on the field of Law mainly focussed in the area of Catalonia and Spain.

Do you know that our public administration has to fulfill the obligation to publicize the laws and regulations —as well as other dispositions—, before its application, according to the principle of information disclosure? Yes, that is. So, currently all the Spanish and regional legislation is freely accessible on the Internet in official gazettes or diaries, in legislative compilations at websites of various government or public entities, etc.



HCI International 2014

We have mentioned before how the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) manages its technological projects from an Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) perspective and, with this in mind, it has attended the International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction for some years now.

This conference sees scholars, researchers, companies and institutions present their projects and studies in the field of HCI.

The latest edition of the conference took place between 22 and 27 June in Crete, Greece. There were 2,000 participants, 238 posters and 244 parallel sessions.

Poster Customization, transparency and promimity

Poster presented

The UOC’s involvement included the presentation of the poster on “Customization, Transparency and Proximity: A User-Centered Content Strategy Applied to the Design of a Virtual Library Website” by Mireia Leg, Mireia Pérez and Pablo Rebaque, which detailed the content management strategy for the Library’s new website, which has been redesigned using a User-Centred Design (UCD) methodology.

The aim of the redesign was to provide users with more intuitive, usable and understandable content (textual content, resources and services) by implementing criteria of customization, transparency and proximity. The study also presents a selection of best practices for applying these criteria to the design of other library websites.

The University also presented three papers. Roger Griset presented “Course Sprints: Combining Teacher Training, Design Thinking and Hackathons” and Enosha Hettiarachchi presented “Designing learning tools: the case of a competence assessment tool” and “Teaching and Learning HCI Online”, the latter on the experience from the UOC’s postgraduate course on HCI.


Cross-posted with iCommunity blog.

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