This article was originally published as proceedings to the tekom annual conference 2008, to complement the session titled Letting translators translate: Application of a localized user persona concept, which was delivered by Mika Pehkonen, Localization Manager at F-Secure Corporation, and Moravia's Vladimir Reiff.
With the ever-present cost and time pressures, translators often aren't allowed to put their best talents to use transferring the user experience from one culture to another. F-Secure has developed the concept of "localized user persona", the definition of six common human archetypes which help determine how users interact with and use a product.
Each includes elements of user experience as well as language and cultural considerations. This concept will be an integral part of the software development and localization cycle at F-Secure and work toward reduced time-to-market and cost control.
Communicating in written form
Human spoken communication, depending on the source, consists initially of body language, then of the tone of voice and only after these, the actual words. Obviously there is no body language in writing, but there can be a tone of voice, and there are definitely words. Still, even at our best, we are using only a small fraction of our communication potential when giving instructions in a written form.
The concept of a user persona could be the answer. When considering user interface text or technical documentation, the written communication could improve the tone of voice and wording by focusing on the user.
Traditionally, the concept of "user" is only one type of person. And often, this type of person is the peer of the technical writer. The problem is that only a small portion of actual users will be of the same type as the person who wrote the text; this in and of itself may (and does) create issues with understanding.
Simply put, the target audience may be, and often is, so different from the technical writer in experience, language and personality that they find documentation difficult to understand. The notion of a localized user persona addresses this issue by choosing the user personas that best describe the target audience for a given product.
Creating content according to user personas
At F-Secure, the source language for products is English and this is where the efforts to create user persona-specific content starts. During the product development process, the F-Secure UI Designer group designs the graphical user interface (GUI) and assigns placeholder text. Then, a technical writer creates the actual UI text strings based on a style guide and a user persona, and creates a task-based online help for that particular persona.
The result of this process is a source text that takes into account needs and skills of the target audience thus helping the final user to better understand instructions and use the product in a more efficient way.
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