User modelling: personas and scenarios

During the design phase for a website, application, etc., the first stage involves defining the tool‚Äôs users. During this stage, which is also known as ‚Äúuser modelling‚ÄĚ, 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).


Another year and another Horizon report… personally, the most interesting thing to do (after reading) is to compare the report to the past year one and compare… what’s new? what is not there anymore? and speculate about why…

And finally, yes! as announced a brand new library edition! a great first step to push academic librarians to take the future.

As on the NMC web says “The¬†NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition, examines key trends, significant challenges, and emerging technologies for their potential impact on academic and research libraries worldwide. While there are many local factors affecting libraries, there are also issues that transcend regional boundaries and common questions; it was with these questions in mind that this report was created.”

And yes… probably there are significant challenges explained and is worth reading for librarians to inspire new approaches to solve old problems… and I personally find inspiring start thinking about libraries and the internet of thinks… but as a trend, what I miss, is¬†the wearable technology … may be next year? can’t wait!

Budget restrictions are affecting both Universities and Libraries, so University Libraries are in a quite vulnerable position. Consequently, we’re obliged to take advantage of free tools and resources if we want to innovate. With this in mind, and with the idea of opening the events programmed for the Open Access Week¬†in the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and coordinated by the UOC Virtual Library to the world, we planned to live stream ¬†the main event, the workshop “Open Acess, repositories and¬†copyleft¬†workshop”. Once we realised that we didn’t have enough budget for live streaming with the Audiovisual Service of the University, we decided to test a free live streaming tool for video.

There are some online tools for video streaming, the most widely used are: Bambuser, Livestream, Ustream¬†and¬†Justin.tv. Most of them have free and premium accounts. With a free account you can stream from your 3G phone or your computer, but probably you can’t connect a camera or stream in HD quality and your account will not be ad-free. For more information on these services you can have a look at this interesting article¬†and this¬†comparison¬†both published in¬†the Streaming media magazine.

In this case, we decided to test Bambuser because of the facility of use and due to knowing the experience of the People Witness network within the social movements in Spain. Besides, there are several online tutorials and a really efficient customer service.

Steps to follow

First of all, you need to create an account by signing up in Bambuser and filling in the form.


In the next step, it’s strongly recommended¬†to connect Bambuser with your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts for a wider diffusion, this way your broadcasts will be automatically posted in your social networks. Following other users with similar interests is a good way of starting a network or community of interest in this platform.

¬†Afterwards, you can choose your setup options for broadcasting: smartphone or webcam. You can change this setting at any time to broadcast both ways. In the UOC Library, as we need this account for broadcasting events, talks, workshops… we’re going to use a webcam for assuring a better quality.

In our case we created a corporative account and our user is UOCbiblioteca.


Your Bambuser account with your live broadcasts can be embedded in your website or blog just by copying the html code which appers in your channel homepage under the “Embed code” section. This way the last streaming will be shown on your website, as you can see bellow.


If otherwise you just want to integrate a particular broadcast, once you’re in the broadcast screen click on the Share button and copy and paste the html code in your website.


Good practices

The use of hastags makes it easier to monitor broadcasts on a specific subject in the social networks and to collect all of them with free online tools, as Rebelmouse for example. 


More information

A more detailed tutorial on How to stream, as well as links to other ones, can be found at the People Witness wiki, collaboratively collected and curated by the participants in the People Witness project.


Summer, a time to change the website

Summer 2013,

1. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (The Open University of Catalonia, UOC)


As a result of a user-centred design (DCU) process, this new website emphasizes the single search box, better explanations, quality and transparency applied to the Library’s services and processes.


2. The University of York


They have redesigned and restructured their website in response to the user’s feedback. They also highlight a new tool which allows you to submit enquiries online and search FAQs.


3. The University of North Carolina


They highlight the following enhancements: a single highly visible search box on the front page, front-and-center placement of the most requested links, information about libraries and places to study and a calendar of upcoming events.


4. Universidad de Navarra

http://www.unav.edu/web/biblioteca (Spanish)

UNAV library website change to fit the design and style of the University website.


We can see that most of them agree on emphasize elements such as the search engine, customer service, access to resources and news and events.


New websites - Summer'13

Editor‚Äôs note: The poster of Mireia Leg, Mireia Perez and Pablo Rebaque ‚ÄėHow to redesign a virtual library website: a case of study‚Äô won the best poster prize on the LIBER 43rd Annual Conference on ‚ÄėResearch Libraries in the 2020 Information Landscape‚Äô in Riga, Latvia, 2-5 July 2014. Congrats!


User-centered design at libraries

The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC) employs user-centered design in all technological projects it develops. However, this process is not only valid for user interface design, but for any kind of product or service design.

User-centered design is

“a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of¬†end users¬†of a¬†product¬†are given extensive attention at each stage of the¬†design process”.

(Source: Wikipedia)


User-centered design process

User-centered design process (source: http://usability.msu.edu/)

For example, the process is applicable to libraries when designing and improving their service.

Likewise, LITA, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), provides training on how to apply the UCD process in libraries. Other institutions, such as Oregon State University, also favour this process and apply it in their daily activities. So OSU library has its own usability team.

However, most of the examples that we can find today are processes applied to user interfaces, such as the library’s website.

The James Madison University Libraries explain the process they followed to redesign their site.

We also found some examples involving the catalogue interface.

In this presentation, the Hamburg libraries talk about their experience with the Beluga project, the new library catalogue for the Hamburg libraries’ collections. They explain the results of focus group sessions with users regarding Beluga and offer some examples of other library services that they have analysed.

The case study of LIBRIS, the Swedish National Union Catalogue, is explained here:

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