The Who Cares Test: Content User Personas


When it comes to Content, Your Frame of Mind is your Frame of Reference.

Today we are more and more comfortable with the idea that content is multi-purpose.

It’s a blessing, and a curse.

This is partly due to the increased level of interest that moonlighting content can generate (an intentional effect), but also because it is so easy to encounter regardless of the origin of our search (an unintentional effect).

Furthermore, due to the seamlessness of digital formatting, items of content on the web readily contain each other or take on multiple formats.

All of this diversity can mean that the role motivating a content user’s interest has more chances to be satisfied; but experience shows that lack of consistency and/or tracking is greatly increased and actually raises the inefficiency of reeling in the right particular item on demand.

Making The Difference

With eXie, the emphasis on content retention and provision is on the probable future need of the content user.

We can rely on the likelihood that for a given role, there is a frame of mind that most often accounts for the decision to create and save content for later reference. For example, training and procedures that are characteristic of a given role will certainly be strong criteria for the content collecting done by a person in that role

Nonetheless, most of the difficulty people have with using content collections stems from the content being virtually “at large” and separated from the context that matters to the user.

The aspect of being at-large is a side effect of the discovery power that comes with many search engines. Context-sensitive search is not always implemented in a way that is regularly used by an ordinary person in a role, and powerful search tools are often designed specifically to be able to cross the boundaries that would define and separate groupings of content for different purposes or groups.

Acting it Out

In working with eXie, users have proposed a set of characteristic Roles and Role-related criteria that use the most likely purposefulness of content as a primary type of context-sensitivity. Regardless of who created or stored the content, the main criteria is a “Persona” – a distinctive role expected to be the future audience or user.

The mindset of the Persona is represented by identifying a high-level focus (such as a goal, concept or responsibility) of the given role that usually distinguishes that role from others, along with the major type of issue that the role sees affecting the focus of concern.

As seen below, the role, focus and issue is named in eXie as a Persona, Theme and Topic, respectively. Any item of content will hold an idea that can correspond to one or more of the Roles based on the Theme and Topic. We use eXie to record that link between the content item and the Theme/Topic that is the most useful context for the item.

eXie Personas Themes and Topics

Whenever an additional type of persona is determined, it can be added to the system along with its characteristic theme/topic paring.

Experts in a role will always have the opportunity to create other additional Theme/Topic pairs that are widely recognized by people in the role. For example, in the above, there are several different pairings that Trainers immediately recognize.

When the pairings are set up for a role in eXie, each theme/topic paring results in a single set of cross-referenced content ideas that are a frame of reference. types of themes become labeled columns of a table, and types of topics become labeled rows that intersect the columns. Each intersection is a context for available content.

As seen from the list above, a given Persona may use one or more frames depending on the way they want to describe or examine a subject by using the content.  Because the frame of reference is based on types of ideas instead of on specific ideas, the same framework can be used to organize and navigate any collection of any specific content that is relevant. When a content user brings up a frame, it is immediately apparent how the included content will be meaningful and to whom.

The Value of Context 

In this system, a teacher persona can apply the same framework to any specified subject matter (e.g. history or science) – and any subject matter can be organized by more than one important frame of reference. The same flexibility exists for any different specified projects, products, or subject matter focus of the other Personas.

As a result, content producers and providers can create frames that everyone readily sees are are good representation of what the content user cares about. As the guide to organizing the collection of content, the frame quickly gives the user confidence in how the available content has value, and ease in navigating to the right choice. The approach provides very high consistency (which breeds familiarity), yet equally provides the flexibility desired to support any particular audience.