[more on the way!]
Stephanie Wright, Mozilla Science Program Lead, Mozilla Foundation
I first stumbled upon StoryEngine at a Mozilla work week. It was at a time where we had had a change in Science Lab leadership and were working on strategic planning. We had just started the Working Open Workshops and Open Leadership mentoring programs and were trying to figure out what to do going forward. I heard there were several stories of people from the Science Lab and took the time to read them. The stories were so powerful — they called out things that I didn't realize were important for our participants. They talked specifically about how our programs helped them, and what they were able to do next. These insights were key to our strategic planning.
I've used the stories since then for a number of different things. For example, when we were working on the Mozilla Network 50 nominations the stories were helpful to remember who accomplished what. Then, when I wrote the nomination letters, I pulled specifics from people’s stories.
I also use StoryEngine to write grant proposals. It’s a huge corpus of material that I use when I want to talk about our community, our network, and our impact. When I’m trying to find support for one of our programs I go there to see what stories we have. I pull evidence quotes from StoryEngine — examples of how existing funding has impacted people. I can write about how open science is important because it does this and it does that, but others don’t relate to that until I pull in a story that shows why open science is important to a specific person. That's the power of a story. Until I actually give them examples of how open science has impacted people's lives it doesn't matter. That's especially crucial for funders.
The Science Lab is now in the process of finishing up an impact evaluation. We brought in outside consultants and are specifically evaluating the Working Open Workshops, the mentorship training, and the Open Science Fellowships. I was able to take this body of stories and give it to our impact evaluators and say “Hey, look. This is some qualitative feedback regarding these programs that you can use in the evaluation.” They used the StoryEngine stories in conjunction with their own interviews and surveys. It was a body of knowledge that we desperately needed for the evaluation — there are so many gems in there and it kept the evaluators from having to interview everyone all over again — they were able to pull from the stories that were already collected.
I like that everything is there. I can just paw through for what I need. It might be too much for people who are just looking for something short and sweet, like highlights with the ability to click through to more in-depth stories. But I'm a librarian, I'm used to large bodies of information and I’m able to find what I want. And what I need is details — I need all of it so I can use it for all of my different purposes.
It's so perfect for what I need to do. We’re building community and that needs stories. This is such a valuable resource to me. I love it. I need it. I want more.
Tais Lessa, UX/UI Designer at Mozilla Foundation
I'm a designer. When I first started at Mozilla, I wanted to have personas. I'd go to meetings and we'd discuss target audiences and I'd get different answers. I thought it would be good to have a set of prototypical people so that we could be decide which group we're targeting. I wanted to use data we already had to build the personas and StoryEngine was the first thing that came to mind. I had read some of the stories and thought they were perfect. They had lots of data and information about different types and groups of people. So we used StoryEngine as a starting point.
Generating personas from the stories was challenging because of the volume of information. We started with Mozilla strategy documents, looking for audiences and what kinds of groups we think exist. I used StoryEngine to validate the groups mentioned in the strategy documents and also to find gaps — places where we saw groups emerging from StoryEngine that were not considered in the strategy documents.
I read 30 stories and put them into a spreadsheet. For each person, I asked: What do they worry about? What are their pains? What are their gains? — with regard to their interactions with Mozilla as well as challenges in their lives in general. I used tags to create groups and then re-read the stories to see what fit with what. Once I had the groups I put them into clusters. Our team works remotely so we used digital post-its (RealTime Board) and we discussed what we were seeing -- because sometimes this kind of work can be very subjective.
The stories helped me to better understand people’s contexts, for example working at CERN or working as a data journalist. I learned a lot from those details and technicalities. This is important because, as a designer, I need to understand users — and their universe — the best I can.
We're now validating the personas with staff — checking to see if we got them right. But even at this early stage I am using them. For example, I had those personas in mind when we were working on the fellowship pages for the Mozilla website. I made a video from the perspective of "The System Changer" — and using perspective walked through all the parts of the site. When I showed some fellows the video it seemed very useful to them. It clicked with them and they were able to say, "Yes, I would say that.”
As a designer that was really nice. People were very excited to walk through the site using the lenses of different users. Because it's not about me or what my team thinks — but about the users and what is best for them. So that experiment we did using personas to walk through the website was very valuable. It's also useful as I think through website features, and helps me to understand what is important.
I felt like I got to know each person when I went through the process of reading the stories and generating the personas. They're kind of like my best friends now and I think about them a lot. When I talk to people I think, "Hmmmm, in which category would this person fit?" If we had had the personas handed to us I don’t think it would have been the same. Going through the experience of surfacing the information and working with my team and trying to align what we were learning with the company strategy was valuable. It was not a super smooth experience, but if I had everything given to me I don't think I would have been able to justify the time to read through the stories.
Also there was value in building the personas with my team — of sharing ownership of the process. It was not just me. I connected with my colleagues and together we built those personas — we grabbed the data, we discussed what it meant. That means that in terms of implementing the chances of using those insights are higher — because they belonged to all of us.
I feel so close to the audience now — it helps me to design better for them. Without StoryEngine, I don't know how I would have designed for such a diverse group of people.