Project Introduction (persona tool review below)
I have finally started working on a personal project that I have been kicking around for a couple of years now called Club Before Country. It is, in it’s purest form, a quick and easy reference tool for soccer fans to locate the club that plays nearest to them. The idea was triggered during the 2014 World Cup as I watched co-workers who had casually mocked me for my love of the sport, get very invested in the United States Mens National Team.
With this project I am running it through the full UX process but I am also going to be test driving new tools along the way. These tools are either new to me or they are new to the marketplace, either way I will be posting quick reviews based off of the work I am putting in to this project. So, first things first: User Research.
This concept is fairly straight forward. I am looking to create a mobile / responsive website that can be quickly shared amongst fans and friends to help encourage further involvement with the game of soccer at the club level. I had assumptions about the interactions of fans and non fans with the game and I wanted to survey the crowd to either confirm or rebuke those assumptions. There are many survey tools on the market but I was not about to try and re-survey 3-5 times just to try them out. I went with Google Forms for this stage of the process. It is a straight forward tool that makes it easy to create a survey featuring a variety of question / answer options in a matter of minutes. On the back end it visualizes the data and provides a spreadsheet you can sort through as well.
User Persona Tool Review
Once the research had been done and analyzed, I moved on to creating personas for my key users. Now, for those new to the field of UX I would highly recommend reading this article from the Nielsen Norman Group about what a user persona is and how they benefit UX / Product teams to get a better understanding of what we’re going to be looking at going forward.
In the past I have always created my personas in Keynote, Photoshop or Sketch. They all give me the freedom to arrange content in a way that allows me to make generally interesting pieces of documentation for the team. I truthfully hadn’t even heard of any User Persona creation tools and I found that not many other people had either. I found two that looked like they would be worth trying out and so below are my reviews for Xtensio and UserForge.
Xtensio is from the people at Fake Crow in LA and actually features a wide array of products or in their words “An interactive toolbox for startups, consultancies and marketing agencies.” Of the two tools this is easily my favorite but it took it’s time growing on me.
This tool allows for the most information to be displayed in a variety of interesting and engaging ways. The scales adjust quickly with a click and the ability to add images for the user, brand identity or whatever else you need allow for maximum customization. This tool is not the most intuitive. I am going to be honest, the ability to change the color scheme did not reveal itself until I started writing this. I kept thinking “How do I do it, I’ve seen the other colors!” so I went back in and clicked on everything that could be clicked until I found it.
My complaints lessened the more I used the tool but I still ran in to formatting issues. When you open the blank document there is strong, bold, placeholder text at the top that reads ‘Full Name’. When you click in to that field to add a name, all of that formatting is removed. The text is now small and even after bumping the size back up, clicking the bold option doesn’t work. Not the end of the world, just odd and frustrating. The formatting options are also fairly far removed from the canvas and are not always visible.
Overall, this is a great product. Obviously if you’re looking to put in a lot of personality or product/brand specific detailing then you’re going to want to go the old fashion route. The only hiccup is the pricing and what you’re able to do with this persona when you’re done. You’re able to create this persona and share the hosting link with your team for FREE but to export the file as a PNG / PDF you’re going to have to pay $14 a month ($10/mo when you buy a one year plan).
UserForge comes to us thanks to Matt Farley and Alvin Engler. It is a beautiful tool but it doesn’t allow me to include everything thing that I would like to include with my personas. I have read that UserForge 2.0 is on the horizon and I am very curious to know what is included in the new version.
Pictured above is really the extent of what you’re able to create which leaves a bit to be desired. As far as a photo is concerned you’re only able to select, randomly, from a list of provided photos. The same is true for the background photo (which I just found out changes arbitrarily when you go back in to the persona some time later). As far as additional information, you’re only given 3 options for new sections below the main header: Quote, Paragraph and List.
The quote is great, all personas are going to need that quote or tagline. The list allows you to display user goals / needs as well as their pain points / frustrations. The paragraph is going to let you write out a short biography or possibly include a user scenario. Beyond that, you’re kind of out of luck when trying to showcase the other aspects of what makes your user unique and relevant to your project.
UserForge allows you to collaborate with team members just as Xtensio does but again, there really isn’t that much to collaborate on. I am very curious to see what UserForge 2.0 looks like because right now I think there is a ton of potential for a easy to use user persona creation tool, I just wish there was more. UserForge is FREE and according to them it always will be.
Give these tools a try if you haven’t already and let me know what you think. Have you already used these tools and have something to add? Comment below and let me know!