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Nov 3, 2021

Placeonas: Place + Personas = better UX?

Every UX designer knows personas. However, anyone who deals with voice user interfaces can no longer avoid one buzzword: the so-called placeonas. As the name suggests, placeonas connect personas to the point (place) of interaction. We tell you what is behind it and what the method can do. Is it a useful addition to the persona concept, or simply short-term hype?

What are placeonas?

Especially with voice user interfaces, the place of use makes a big difference: In the car, users have their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel. Voice is the safest way to interact with a device. Those sitting in the library, however, are more likely to resort to other forms of interaction such as touch so as not to disturb their fellow learners. To address this, Bill Buxton, a researcher at Microsoft, created the placeonas method.

The placeonas thus direct attention to the place where the digital product is used. They describe how the location of the user's activity influences the interaction and specify which modality and technology is suitable for the interaction. People can interact with digital products using their hands, eyes, ears and voice. There is not ONE optimal input and output modality. Rather, it depends on where users are, what they are doing, and which senses are "free" for interaction. Is the ambient noise too high to hear the answer? Does the user have to speak out loud private info? Can he easily look at the screen to see visual information? Placeonas help find answers to questions like these.

News CB Placeonas 935 01 engl
News CB Placeonas 935 02 engl

If you're preparing a meal at home, you may have wet or dirty hands, so you want to avoid touching your smartphone with the cooking app. While your hands are limited, your voice, eyes and ears remain available. Designers can use this knowledge and design the interaction accordingly. Cooking apps that call up the next cooking step responding to a voice command or gesture are conceivable, for example.

How useful are placeonas?

At first glance, UX designers are certainly asking themselves the following question: Do we really need a new method for this? Finally, analysis of the user environment is a key component of human centered design. If the usage environment limits interaction, a context of use analysis reveals this. Whereby, this is even much more comprehensive than Placeona's, as it focuses only on interaction modalities.

Nonetheless, we can gain a lot from the Placeonas – not only for designers of voice user interfaces. Placeonas quickly and clearly demonstrate how and where users interact with the digital product or service. Placeonas raise awareness for and visualize the context of use. This way, they help to identify limitations and decide for or against technologies or forms of interaction.

In our view, placeonas can be used very well, for example, to make websites, apps, or applications accessible. Placeonas reveal which target groups, such as the blind or deaf, rely on other interaction modalities. However, UX designers should refine the placeonas accordingly. You should not only describe whether the target group can see or not see, for example, but also which color spectrum is visible.

With Placeonas, UX designers can create solutions that seamlessly integrate with the user experience. Placeonas explicitly show when the context of use changes.

When users get into a car or enter a library, new constraints may arise. Designers can customize solutions so that users can continue to interact seamlessly with an application – without having to leave the room or pull over. At the same time, placeonas inspire because they open the view for interaction modalities beyond the display. Placeonas can thus be a useful extension of personas.