Developing effective technical communication requires a clear understanding of the needs of the audience. Users scan documents, searching for specific information that helps them get things done. If the relevance of a document is unclear, readers will move on.
Information design begins with an analysis of the target audience. The goal of the analysis is to identify the needs of the user so the document can be optimized to satisfy those needs. This analysis will influence the document features, content, navigation, and visual design
In the analysis phase, the problem is identified. The document goals, success metrics, and overall objectives are also established. Information regarding the reader, such as the use environment and audience preferences, demographics, and existing knowledge and skills, are also identified during this phase.
Personas are tools used by information designers and user interface experience professionals to describe a fictitious person with characteristics that represent a specific segment of the target audience. The persona captures the behavior patterns, goals, environment, and attitudes of the audience segment; information that is critical in the design phase. By considering the needs of your personas, objective, informed design decisions can be made.
Multiple personas can be created to represent different audience segments, with different levels of knowledge and experience or different information needs, but, generally, a small number of personas are used. A primary persona should be identified to ensure that the needs of the primary audience are prioritized.
Personas are used to create use-case scenarios. Scenarios help identify the specific tasks that readers want or need to perform. A prioritized list of tasks drive the document content, organization, layout, and navigation, which are captured in the document design specification.