About Face 2.0

by Alan Cooper and Robert Reimann

Cooper (the company, not the person) is often credited with inventing personas. This is of course not true; designers have been using personas for years just without the benefit of the handy label or common methods. What Cooper has done is to popularize and evangelize both label and some common methods for building personas.

About Face 2.0 is really two books in one. The first is short, about 90 pages, and provides a concise accessible collection of methods and practices necessary to help create valuable personas. This material has become the foundation for most current persona work. The second is simply a reshuffling of the same content found in the first About Face edition.

The disconnect between these two parts of About Face 2.0 is jarring. For instance, personas (the focus of the first part) apply to design problems far beyond the mere minutia of windows-based software GUIs (the focus of the second part), and the book offers no segue between them. It is like combining an essay on the game theory behind the prisoner’s dilmena with a detailed breakdown of modern baseball. Furthermore the GUI specific content is showing its age. Much of it was written pre-web, and is based on a windows 3.1 world. Certainly many of the GUI design principles outlines are still relevant today, and the authors have tried to update things, but it still feels a bit stale.

Despite the problems About Face 2.0 is still one of the best and most complete sources of information and inspiration for developing and using good design personas.

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