UX and Personality: User Personas, Design, and HCI

UX and Personality

Psychographics encompass the UX and personality realm—and predict which users or customers are most likely to use and purchase a certain product or service. The growth and buzz of new brands and promotions require strategy and loyalty from customers, from the process of acquisition to sustentation.

In marketing, the explosion of UX stems from the default adaptation of mobile-first design—as users are gravitating to convenience on the smaller scale. Customer-first design in business is paramount as most purchases are now made over the Internet, with a fair amount of those being on a smartphone.

“UI is the saddle, the stirrups, and the reins. UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse.”

– Dain Miller, Web Developer

Personality psychology greatly overlaps with UI (user interface) design as well, as the “look and feel” of a site often has its own character (layout) and voice (microcopy). Brand identity and management can greatly benefit from the many concepts of personality psychology.

How do UX and personality effectively work together to algorithmically create compelling, true-to-life personas? What other domains of knowledge are essential to the development of personalities portrayed through corporations and brands?

Let’s begin at the first steps to the design process:

UX Persona Development Stages

The iterative process of UX persona design is a multi-step process which requires extensive knowledge in the domains of business, psychology, and the social sciences—to translate findings into quantitative measures and feasible benchmarks for further analysis.

The UX persona development stages are as follows:

  1. Planning with touchpoints
  2. User research
  3. In-person interviews
  4. Data gathering
  5. Data cleaning
  6. Data analysis
  7. Persona curation
  8. Additional revisions

As a complement to purely demographic statistics such as location of residency or annual income levels, psychographics strictly focus on the social characteristics of people—their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Personality is certainly part of the picture as well.

The Big 5 personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) are great starting points to consider when creating a brand persona. Other psychographic variables such as values, lifestyles, and interests help paint a more holistic (and realistic) picture of a virtual user.

Preferences such as political attitudes, personality traits from social media open-text analyses, values, interests, and lifestyles all factor into the development of user personas in the digital marketing sphere. Large-scale patterns emerge from data, which can be creatively tabulated into visualizations and reports.

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Personality

Personality characteristics can be clustered into 3-D boxes, through methods such as hierarchical clustering and k-means clustering. Specifically, ANOVA (one-way, two-way) and SPSS tests are used to determine p-scores and their significance under different clusters.

“We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave.”

– Donald A. Norman, Living with Complexity

Human-computer interaction (HCI) is a growing subdivision of computer science, which integrates technology with psychology—humanizing digital interactions. From audio-visual elements in a graphical user interface (GUI) to value delicate design (VSD), the applications of HCI have only touched the tip of the iceberg so far.

The MUIDE (Mobile User Interface Design Elements) are organized according to 11 separate Likert scales:

  1. Alignment
  2. Buttons
  3. Color
  4. Font size
  5. Font style
  6. Information structure
  7. Information density
  8. Layout
  9. List
  10. Navigation
  11. Support

UI and UX design work hand-in-hand with clear, effective microcopy. Design meets psychology; form meets function. As an inherently iterative field, HCI requires consistent incoming data to improve and learn the most efficient patterns and routes from the back-end. The front-end would consist primarily of UI elements.

“Design used to be the seasoning you’d sprinkle on for taste; now it’s the flour you need at the start of the recipe.”

– John Maeda

The user experience involves a series of steps and intensive groundwork in research to bring forth a seamless and intuitive end product, complete with the ideal balance of flexibility and usability. Cognitive science, information science, and linguistics combine to work hand-in-hand in the ever-developing world of UX.

UX and Personality: Final Thoughts

As brands become more conversational and human-like in execution, the understanding of personality psychology becomes more important. The medium itself is not the message anymore. Style, tone, and design all intertwine to project and maintain a consistent image.

Using personality data for UX purposes requires a whole digital garden of ethical considerations, such as ensuring privacy and obtaining informed consent from users when collecting or using personal information.

Chatbots and automated reply emails are only a small segment of UX and personality. Up and emerging subsectors in the digital marketing sphere include personalized virtual assistants and calendar scheduling management—all to be fully automated in the near future.

Our understanding of core and secondary personality traits is undergoing constant research and revisions. As technology continues to shape how we communicate and develop relationships both within and outside of our pixelated realities, we learn how to grow with it.


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