December 12, 2013 by Amanda Visconti

Infinite Ulysses: Usability Personas and Site Content Ideas

I'm starting to flesh out the Infinite Ulysses site's content: pages explaining my methodology, how to use the site, etc. Eventually, I'll be thinking about how I want people to progress through the site (by creating and walking through the site in several example user personas and how they'll probably actually use the site (arrive and want to jump right in to reading the text and using the features).

For the latter (most likely) case, I'll probably offer a short (60 seconds or less) video tutorial on setting up an account and using all the features of the site, as well as an option that walks you through one way of using the site (probably something like how NYPL Labs introduces users to their Building Inspector site). I'll need to figure out how to balance people who want to jump right into site use via intuitive design of the various features, and encouraging site visitors to take five minutes and learn the site's full capabilities before using it. Those visitors who actually end up reading some or all of Ulysses on the site will be spending a lot of time on it, so it's worth their while to know all the features available to them—but it will be my job to convince them of that (and make the features worthy of their use).

Usability Testing and Site Visitor Personas

I'm not at the point of testing the site via personas yet, but I've started to record feedback from various people I've talked with about my projects with an eye toward the personas' eventual creation. A usability persona is a representation of a potential user group for your website, based on real feedback and condensed into a single representative fictional character against which you can test the site experience. I've given my initial personas silly names to help me quickly step through these four approaches to site use whenever I'm considering a new feature:

  • Riley Read-Everything (a user who wants to go through all the background info on the site before committing to reading, who needs a clear architecture for reading through the various non-Ulysses pages on the site)
  • Jessie Jump-Right-In (a first-time reader of Ulysses who jumps right into reading and annotating and asking questions, requiring intuitively designed site functionality)
  • Taylor the Teacher (a user orchestrating group work on Ulysses, possibly with private annotations or other teaching/book club requirements)
  • Sam the Scholar (a user with some Ulysses experience who wants to help out by adding contextual annotations and answering questions, perhaps by adding a bulk list of their existing annotations; and/or wants to understand and engage in scholarly uses of the site such as curating a themed/argument-making set of annotations)

The persona walkthroughs will be followed by real site use and usability testing, first with a small group of friends and colleagues (which will help me create an updated set of usability personas), then with a limited beta testing group, and finally with the site open to everyone.

Potential Site Content

A developing list of content for informational pages I'll probably want to publish on the Infinite Ulysses site:

  • Inspired by the Speaking in Code inclusivity statement, a statement of welcome encouraging participation by everyone, with a contact form for suggestions on how the site can better its users. This page will also address the positive rights of the site users, such as the site being a safe space to ask questions (however simple) and to provide answers from any viewpoint, and a clear path for reporting any issues within the site user community.
  • User profile pages (for finding active readers on the site who have similar interests or backgrounds, for recording demographics on the site user base, etc.)
  • An explanation of copyrights and other licensing active on the site (what rights do users maintain over content shared with the site? what licenses have I applied to my written content, code, and design?)
  • Background material on Joyce and the writing of Ulysses (e.g. Ulysses' legal history, versions of the work from drafts onward)
  • Development blog (with a timeline, of site work new features, bugs fixed, questions for existing users)
  • A support forum (intended for questions about site usage and bug reporting; postings that are questions about the text may be lifted to the textual annotations)
  • An explanation of the core set of tags I'm providing when the site opens for public use (what they mean, who they may be useful to, why I included them, how to add your own)
  • Future plans for the site, with a poll on possible future features of the site
  • Contact page
  • Unanswered queue: questions about the text that haven't received an answer are pulled onto this page so that it's easier for me and other site users to help one another out in their interpretations
  • A page describing the accessibility/universal design work done on the site, future plans for greater accessibility, and a form for suggesting other tactics
  • How to use the mobile version of the site
  • How to use the site in the classroom to teach Ulysses (how to let students privately annotate the text and have that work only visible to their teacher; how to let students curate their own themed digital edition version of the text)
  • How to use the site in reading groups (e.g. book clubs)
  • How to add annotations to the site in bulk (i.e. if you have a list or file of Ulysses annotations for some reason and wish to add them to the text without typing them in one by one)
  • An explanation of annotation moderation policy (e.g. I reserve the right to unpublish or delete content that is spam, defamatory, or otherwise not supportive of the goals of the project. Whenever the possibility of the content being added to the site in good faith is present, I will contact the author of the content upon unpublishing and either give them a few days to copy their content from the site before I delete it, or send them a copy of the content.)
  • Information on my digital humanities and Joyce studies backgrounds, as well as my interests and biases as they effect interpretation of Ulysses and design of digital editions

I successfully defended my digital humanities doctoral dissertation in Spring 2015. The now-available Infinite Ulysses social+digital reading platform is part of that project; come read with us!