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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:11 pm 
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Hi Chris,

If it's all right, would you tell me where you are all at in your process? What have you completed and what still needs to be done, and what's the decided path to get there?

I don't know if this is too late coming, but I would recommend creating personas and then creating documentation that meets a particular persona's needs.

I think this approach can make it very obvious to everyone on the documentation team what is needed in documentation (and in functionality as well, but that's not what we're talking about here, I know).

Joomla is so robust, that it makes sense to make different "user manuals" for different users. This also can divide the labor to the people most suited to address a particular aspect of documentation.

Of course, I am not a power Joomla user (YET), and am quite green still, so I can't say I know precisely what typical Joomla user roles are. But it seems there are:

  • Joomla Developers
  • Template Designers
  • Extension Programmers
  • Website Administrators
  • Website Owners
  • Content Creators
  • Content Consumers

If this list works let me know and I will go the next step. Please let me know if there are other roles or if I have too many. Of course there can be overlap, but I figure this list is exhaustive.

Actually, I do have a cunning plan, my liege!

This will be quite fun, so I look forward to your response! ;D

Best,

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:21 am 
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Well, if you look here: http://docs.joomla.org/Doc_Campers_Start_Here you will see the major roles that we are aiming at at present.  As you point out, there is a lot of overlap in the material that each role requires.  I wouldn't want to aim for too many different "user manuals" at this stage, although we might end up getting there.  Traditionally we have had a User Manual, an Administration Manual and an Installation Manual,  They are available on the help site (http://help.joomla.org).  We have also done a Developer Manual in the distant past but this has been impossible recently because of the pace of change in the codebase.

These documents have been mostly written as standalone entities, but looking forward we are trying to establish a single, central source of documentation "modules" that can be re-used in different contexts and for different audiences.  It should then be possible to extract selections of modules from this database in order to construct a discrete piece of documentation for a given audience in a given format.  This makes more efficient use of the available manpower.  Our first experiment with that method was the Joomla! 1.5 Template Tutorials Project (here at the moment: http://www.developer.joomla.org/wiki/Main_Page.  This will be moved into the new docs.joomla.org wiki and I hope it will gain a new lease of life during the upcoming Doc Camp event since it's nowhere near finished.

We are greatly aided in our quest for single-source, modular, reusable documentation by the move to MediaWiki which supports this quite naturally using the "transclusion" mechanism.  We have stuff spread over a number of locations at the moment and I think that this can make it difficult to search and difficult to re-use.  I envisage that we will gradually move all our documentation into the MediaWiki at docs.joomla.org over time.

One important task that we still need to complete is the writing of the 1.5 help screens.  We will be trying to put some effort into this during the Doc Camp event next weekend and I have set up some pages where we can assemble the information required here: http://docs.joomla.org/Help_screens

Regards,
Chris.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:06 am 
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Hi Chris!

I would like to present a thought experiment for you. I can't finish the entire experiment in this email and will supply the rest in the coming days. Please know I am not saying this is the way things *should* be done, but to present a process which may prove to be quite powerful for all the documentation team, whether content creator, designer, programmer. If it isn't, then by all means don't adopt it. But I think you will like what I have to propose. Just hear me out and then discuss and we can go from there?

It seems that I was fairly close to what is defined at http://docs.joomla.org/Doc_Campers_Start_Here

So let me present this and see what you all think. This process will not exclude what you have already done, but may help empower all involved as a means of communicating about very specific scenarios. Scenarios and goals help communicate. Implementations and features do not always shed light on what the user is trying to do.

Please check out these articles at cooper.com:
http://www.cooper.com/insights/journal_ ... nas_1.html
http://www.cooper.com/insights/journal_ ... _user.html

In fact I would recommend going through all the articles about personas at this website, but the above ones should be a good starting point for our purposes.

In particular it says:
"Write documentation in a way that helps your users achieve their goals, instead of simply cataloging all of the product's features."

For this exercise (and this is just for exploration, not to direct), I'm going to use my list of roles that I presented earlier:
  • Joomla Developers
  • Template Designers
  • Extension Programmers
  • Website Administrators
  • Website Owners
  • Content Creators
  • Content Consumers

Now, let's translate these into personas! :D

Caveat: I don't pretend to know what all of these personas for Joomla tends to be like, so I'm completely making this up from thin air. Please feel free to change this as you see fit.

Personas are meant to be archetypes, they need not be exact, but they should be specific, although they should not be edge-cases. That is, even though they are specific, they are not alienating a number of other instances of personas within a similar role. Other personas may coincide with the same goals as the archetype, but perhaps for different reasons.

So let's go down the list:

================
Joomla Developer:
================
Chester is a 35-year-old programmer, he has a BS degree in comp sci and has worked for Honeywell for the past 5 years. He is well versed in these languages:
  • Java
  • PHP
  • C/C++
  • SQL
  • javascript/HTML

He's a big believer in open source software and even though he may write proprietary code on his job, he likes to spend about 10 hours a week contributing to Joomla's code base. He is a part of the Joomla security team and is responsible for evaluating code and looking for security weaknesses.

Those ten hours he spends tends to look like this:
[fill in the blanks]

Chester needs access to Joomla documentation to see how other aspects of the code base works. He is most likely going to search on the following terms in the dev.joomla.org search field:
[fill in the blanks]

The most important GOALS for Chester in using Joomla documentation is:
[fill in the blanks]

The most important GOALS for Chester in writing Joomla documentation is:
[fill in the blanks]

Chester's most trying frustration with documentation in the past has been:
[fill in the blanks]

Chester would like to see the following things changed in the Joomla documentation:
[fill in the blanks]

================
Template Designer:
================
Kate is a 32-year-old web designer. She has a BA in fine arts and has had her own business in graphic design and web design for the past 10 years. Kate is fairly conversant in HTML and CSS and keeps up on cross-browser issues. She taught herself HTML and CSS and isn't afraid of looking at web page source code to discover new ways of designing with HTML/CSS. Kate loves the idea of using Joomla, because she isn't a programmer, and has no interest in learning how to program, although she can cut and paste javascripts into the head of her HTML files.

Kate recognizes that offering flat HTML websites are no longer a viable solution for many of the clients who hire her to create their websites. She is thrilled that Joomla offers interactive functionality for which she has no capability to program on her own.

Kate is quite keen to use Joomla, as it allows her to evaluate an extension before presenting it to a client. In the past, Kate has hired a few programmers who could never deliver what she needed. By using Joomla, she is able to bypass the anguish of hiring a programmer, and not knowing if the programmer will leave her in the lurch.

As intrepid as Kate is, she has had a hard time understanding how to set up a website once the basic Joomla package has been installed. She would like to see one-stop documentation on how to create her own templates at the Joomla documentation site, as well as how to use Joomla's admin backend. She would love to have a content creator tutorial she can direct her clients to so she doesn't have to spend a lot of time training them on how to use the CMS aspects of Joomla.

She likes the idea of having a vanilla template to design from so she customize it for different clients easily and quickly. Kate wishes she could find a forum on the site that is focused to web designers, just like there is a site on the forum for developers. Right now, she can only search keywords and often the search results are way off target for her needs.

Subsequently, she must spend hours trawling through the forums to get answers, which is monstrously frustrating to her. The vocabulary used in the forums is unfamiliar to Kate and appears to programmer-centric and intimidating. She doesn't know what OOP means, or what a class is unless that's referring to a CSS attribute. It's all so confusing to her.

Once working a little with the default Joomla package she discovers that the engine generates table code which is not W3 compliant, nor is it accessible. Kate has a regular contract with the Department of Health in her state and she must make sure that all her designs are Section 503 compliant, so site visitors with disabilities can access the content. She may lose her contract if she can't make the site available to voice readers that make the site content available to blind visitors. It's imperative that she be able to remove tables and have full control over the presentation of the site's content. But currently there is no documentation that shows her how to turn off tables.

(Little does Kate know, were she to dig long and hard enough that she would be able to turn off tables, but it means she must create template overrides. Kate does not know PHP and has no CLUE what a template override is.) Kate longs for parameters switches in the backend administration that would allow her to do something as simple as turn on or off tables.

When Kate visits the Joomla support sites, she is quite confused where to go find help and would like to see Joomla documentation meet her needs on how to get her job done as quickly as possible. This is her primary documentation "goal." She doesn't need information on how to write CSS or how to create a W3 compliant template. She can do that in her sleep. What she wants to do is understand how to insert classes and ids into the vanilla template so that she can have full control of the presentation of the website content.

She also wants to understand what modules, components and plugins are. Not how they are implemented or programmed, but what they can do to help her to organize her content or offer functionality to her client. She would also love to see different implementations of the same module or component so that she can understand different ways to use them. This is not available in the current Joomla documentation.

In addition, Kate desperately wants to be able to access the stylesheets for her modules and components all from the backend. She would prefer not to have to edit the stylesheet by hand everytime she wants to make a change. She would love it if her stylesheets were fed into a form in the administration backend where she could edit her style sheets, click "Preview" and see the change.

She is overwhelmed with all the code that comprises Joomla, and doesn't understand why there isn't an easier way to access stylesheets, like in Dreamweaver. It would be helpful if there were a Joomla user guide on how to use DW with Joomla, without fear of munging the code and breaking the entire code base.

It would benefit Kate if with every default and third-party component or module that she installed, there was a list of all the style declarations in the HTML included in the documentation of the extension so that she wouldn't have to hunt them all down by setting up the modules and then figuring out every configuration the code would generate so that when her client added content and changed parameters, her template wouldn't break (and make her look bad).

==================
Extension Programmer
==================
Ronin is a 41-year-old programmer. He works for KCP International, a Japanese Language School in Tokyo. He has a degree in computer science and has worked mostly as a network administrator during his working career. The KCP website team recently decided to use Joomla for their site's revamp. Ronin likes to write scripts and code here and there in his free time. He is interested in creating a Joomla component for coverting yen to other currencies so visitors to the KCP website can translate the cost of living in Tokyo into their native currency. The KCP web team would love to have such a component and have welcomed Ronin's contribution.

Ronin has researched the developer's forum at Joomla.org and is becoming acquainted with the Joomla community. One reason he is keen on Joomla is because of the emphasis in translation, as well as the international nature of the Joomla community.

---research for Ronin in progress....


I will continue with the other personas in this post asap, these being for the following roles:

  • Website Administrators
  • Website Owners
  • Content Creators
  • Content Consumers

More soon!

_________________
-madame philosophe


Last edited by madamep on Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:32 pm 
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Interesting idea.  I hadn't heard of personas before.  Thank you for bringing that up.

I was initially sceptical, especially given the lengthy description of a (presumably) non-existent person!  Is Kate modelled on someone you know?  However, I followed up the links you gave and I think the persona approach makes a lot of sense.  It is easier for a writer to write for a specific individual rather than a vague notion of a broad audience category since it gives a clearer idea of what needs to be explained and what can safely be assumed.

Can you recommend a good book on personas?  The books I've seen listed appear to have mixed reviews.

Anyway, I think the persona idea could be a useful tool and I would like to pursue it further and see where it leads.

One point that all the sources I've read make is that personas should not be arbitrary but should be based on knowledge of real users.  This implies that we need to conduct some form of user research before constructing the personas.  If we tried to create personas right now they would be based on supposition, not empirical evidence.  Are Chester and Kate based on any tangible evidence?

So rather than diving in and creating personas, perhaps the first step is to devise some form of survey that we can carry out to give us the evidence on which the personas can be based.

Regards,
Chris.

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Davenport Technology Services http://www.davenporttechnology.com/


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 8:09 pm 
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Hi Chris,

Actually I have been doing some homework on Joomla personas. I have emails in to a few people who are Joomla programmers soliciting their input. But I welcome doing more research so we can identify clusters, rather than just pull something out of thin air and supposition.

Kate is loosely based upon my own experiences. I don't use Dreamweaver at all, but there might be many template designers who do. Personas are meant to be fictitious, but should address real-world interactions. So even though they are fictitious, they are based on real interaction requirements.

I didn't mean for my persona narratives to be conclusive, but to get some material out on the table to start molding into something that could be more conclusive. My narratives are also meant to show the power of an interaction narrative; they illustrate context and user goals. User's don't care about features, they care about getting something done. A good narrative will show how a user authentically interacts with Joomla. This makes it really clear if there are big holes that have not been addressed for that segment of the audience.

It would be marvelous to do user research, but I didn't want to be presumtuous!  :) How should we do that? I don't think it need be exaustive, as we can get into a design death spiral and never get the objective done, which is to get documentation to the masses.

If we do a survey, it should have open-ended questions. It should not be centered on features, but on how the different members of the community interact with Joomla and what they are searching for when they need help. It will become obvious what features or documentation are needed from what comes out of these interactions.

Keep in mind that users don't often know what they need, so this is another reason NOT to ask them "What can we do to make Joomla documentation better?" But users DO know how they use something and the context in which they use it. This includes their work environment, their GOALS, time limitations, how often they might be interrupted, things like that. If we come to know these things intimately, then it will be as obvious as a kick in the head what documentation is needed!

As far as a good book to read, I adore The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper. Search Amazon and you'll find it quick. To get more info on using personas, I've got About Face, also by Alan Cooper, but it's more technical and specific to interaction research and design.
Chris Davenport wrote:
I was initially skeptical, especially given the lengthy description of a (presumably) non-existent person!  Is Kate modelled on someone you know?  However, I followed up the links you gave and I think the persona approach makes a lot of sense.  It is easier for a writer to write for a specific individual rather than a vague notion of a broad audience category since it gives a clearer idea of what needs to be explained and what can safely be assumed.


I'm thrilled that you chose to give personas a chance. I hope others will too! You will see that not only is it easier for a writer to write about a specific persona, it's also easier for everyone involve to talk about a specific person than the nefariously nebulous "USER". When we refuse to use the word USER and name a persona, something shifts in the paradigm. USER is this vague, silly-putty label that can stretch and morph based upon the person using the word. Problem is, my USER will have a different set of criteria than your USER, and that's were the mess occurs.

If we create a persona, then when a solution is being reviewed, we can say, "That's perfect for Kate, but Chester and Ronin don't really need it. Chester would prefer XYZ, though". And EVERYONE will know what's going on, because we've fleshed out Kate, Chester and Ronin ahead of time.

Does it make sense?

Let me know how we should proceed!

Best,

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 1:06 am 
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What worries me is that if you or I simply cobble together a bunch of personas we will have no basis on which to believe that they are "accurate" (whatever that means in the context of an archetype).

I like the idea of doing some kind of survey.  Care to design the survey questions?

It will almost certainly need to be conducted online, but I'm not sure how we would handle the mechanics.  It needs some thought.  The Joomla! websites have very high visibility so there's a good chance that we would get a sufficient response to give credibility to the findings.

Regards,
Chris.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 2:21 am 
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Hi Chris,

My sense is that the worst persona informs better than the best feature list. So I'm happy to imagine a persona and go from there. But if you would like to do a survey I'm fine with that.

I would rather not create the questions alone, as I do not know how programmers would tend to interact with Joomla, or how extension developers would interact. So I would need help with developing those questions.

Having said that, I do think that I can conceive of some Q's for content creators, Joomla administrators, and template designers.

Unfortunately, for the next couple weeks I'm about to be snowed under. I do want to get involved with persona development, but I have some things taking my attention right now. So I can't be giving this all of my attention at the moment.

Keep me in the loop!

Best,

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 1:36 am 
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Just chiming in to say that I love this idea.  I have many friends that do all sorts of market and ethnographic research... and the results that you get are enlightening and incredibly useful.  Thanks for bringing this up and I hope you do end up finding the time to help make this reality.

- Louis

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 1:48 am 
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Fantastic approach.  I'll see if I can help flesh out Chester and Ronin for you a little more.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:39 am 
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Based on the information in this thread I have created a page on the wiki here: http://docs.joomla.org/Personas.  Feel free to add/amend as required.

Regards,
Chris.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2008 7:03 am 
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Hi all,

This is great to get some knowledgeable Joomla folks involved in fleshing out personas. Thank you for stepping up to the plate! Definitely have fun creating them, as one's latent D&D tendencies may be satisfied in this "role playing" ;) However please try to stay focused on reality. That is, keep to authentic situations and scenarios that really serve to illustrate the needs and GOALS of that user/persona.

Always consider the goals of the persona and are those goals truly relevant? How likely is it that that persona would have that particular goal? Is that goal primary and central? or tertiary and edge-case? If it's an edge-case, throw it out. I would guess that each persona would naturally have 3-5 major goals. I'd say 10 would be far too many, 1-2 too few. But that's just my sense of personas I've researched myself.

So think of the goal and then think about how that persona is likely to strive to achieve it, based upon his or her knowledge, learning pattern, environment, time allowance, skill set, etc.

All of this is meant to be an exercise to illuminate patterns and interactions, so there really are no right or wrong answers, just appropriate ones.

I will try to do more  to contribute - I've been eyeballing the wiki on personas.

More soon!

madamep

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 2:03 am 
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Chris Davenport wrote:
Based on the information in this thread I have created a page on the wiki here: http://docs.joomla.org/Personas.  Feel free to add/amend as required.

Regards,
Chris.


I'm definately interested in helping out on developing the "persona" profiles. Having a "persona" in mind while editing/writing will make the task of developing the joomla documentation much easier.

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