Jobs To Be Done

by Nick de Voil 5. January 2017 18:12

I've been reading Alan Klement's book "When Coffee and Kale Compete" about Jobs To Be Done (JTBD).  You can download it for free at .

In my opinion, JTBD is a really helpful theory and it goes some way towards relieving some of the problems I feel are inherent both in standard UX-style and also traditional BA-style analysis of people's needs and motivations. I think it will help us to come up with a better synthesis of the two. There's a lot of wisdom in there.  For example, Klement points out what's wrong with longitudinal studies (but also clarifies when he thinks they're appropriate) and and also (one of my pet hates) the Five Whys. And this on personas was music to my ears:

Personas include data such as race, age, and gender; however, these data represent only the natural, common variation among the people who use the product. But common variation doesn't help you understand... For example, a persona may describe a customer who likes to use the product on weekends. Now, is that important to the design, or is it a distraction? Is it real, or was it fabricated to "bring the user to life"? How many customers said they use it on weekends? One? Ten? One hundred? When invalid data are co mingled with valid data, how can you tell the difference? Personas do not distinguish variation due to either common or special causes. The layman who does not understand statistics will believe any variation within a system is due to special cause.

Have a read and tell me what you think.

Personas Considered Harmful

by Nick de Voil 3. March 2010 11:37

Personas are one of the staples of current UX practice. Although they are useful in some ways, I've always felt uncomfortable with them and have put some of my objections into this paper. What do you think?

Since writing the paper, I've come across another recent one by Adrienne Massanari which expresses similar ideas. She presents her argument as an application of discourse analysis, which I find very interesting. She says, "IA discourse continues to reinscribe many of the tropes traditionally associated with user-centered and systems-centered design, both of which implicitly marginalize the individuals interacting with technological devices".

Massanari's focus on the discourse of UX (and IA) is helpful. It's the discourse that I object to, rather than the technique itself. I would say the same thing about Agile and Object Orientation - the ideas are great, but some of the things people say about them, and the claims they make for them, are unhelpful.  I referred to this in my talks to the IIBA at their conference and London meeting back in the autumn, where I also made the same distinction between User-Centred Design and Participatory Design that Massanari emphasises in her paper.