Moving to Support Downstream Users

Jared Spool

December 28th, 2008

Many of our clients are in the business of designing tools for their users to build great things for a wider audience. These range from mapping tools to pattern libraries.

Naturally, our clients’ teams start by focusing on their direct audience. They look to make the best experience for these folks, to make creations come to life quickly and effectively.

It doesn’t take long, once they start researching how their direct users are taking advantage of these tools, to see that not every creation represents the tool well. Quickly, the goal of the team becomes to expand the scope to enhance the lives of what we call the downstream users.

In moving the design focus from the direct audience to the downstream users, we’ve found having robust personas and scenarios helps tremendously. The field research behind the personas involves both the direct users and the downstream users. Scenarios are often interconnected between personas, since the stories describe the direct user’s relationship with their downstream users.

The most successful of our clients in this endeavor have had great luck when they’ve put together a solid vision of what key downstream users experience, then talk about the idealized vision for the direct customers’ development process to reach that experience. The combination of the two viewpoints becomes very powerful.

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