Study Participant Playing Cards

Brian Christiansen

August 15th, 2007

When we’re doing user research, such as usability tests or field studies, we like to keep our users’ real needs in constant consideration. To keep our users on our mind, we create a set of cards with images and information on your users. The cards become useful when you want to talk about something you saw specifically in a test or field visit — you can pick up the card and start discussing the person and what you observed.

(Over at Yahoo!, they use something similar for the personas they create.)

A Flickr set with more images of these cards

Here’s an image of a set I made here at UIE, which I modeled after baseball player cards. These don’t need to be fancy, in fact I made this set in about ten minutes. Here’s how we do it:

  1. We start with images of our users. We snap these during our field visits or when people come in for testing. We assure them that the images won’t be used for anything commerical.
  2. Second, we use the OmniGroup’s excellent OmniGraffle to layout the cards. If you don’t have OG, you could use something from your Office suite, for instance PowerPoint would be fine. You could simply divide a slide into 6ths to create your cards.
  3. We dropped in our images.
  4. We added labels our cards with as much or little info as necessary. Here we used their “user number,” which is how we tracked them through testing and their first name. We wanted the cards to be as easy to read from a medium distance as possible, so a group could discuss them while strewn about the conference table or pinned to the wall. Sometimes we’ve played games with them, quizzing each other by holding up two cards and asking what user needs they have in common, or contrast how their needs are unalike.
  5. We printed them out on card stock. Snip, snip.

(Extra credit would be to make two-sided cards with more stats about the user, if that’s helpful for you. You could accomplish that by producing two cards per person, print, then cut and paste them together. )

The next step is deployment of the tool: determining how many copies of which cards to make and letting your collaborators decide how to keep themselves reminded. Some groups stick them around their displays or cube walls, for example.

One Response to “Study Participant Playing Cards”

  1. Jeff Parks Says:


    This is a great idea!

    Have you ever used this as a way of selling the idea of Personas to future clients?

    I was thinking you could have a universal set of playing cards that illustrate the diversity of end users. Pass out a card to each person at the table and ask them if they were designing for the client they had in front of them, how would they do it? What content would be of value? How would you organize the information? etc.

    Personas have helped me bring together diverse teams for both on line and off line solutions. I’ll be using the participant playing cards concept in future projects – thanks for sharing.


Add a Comment