Improve content design with the 3 ‘P’s – purpose, principles and personas

by | Feb 12, 2018 | Articles, Featured, General

Ex BBC, and independent consultant, Myles Runham, and Nahdia Khan from Towards Maturity hosted a thought-provoking exchange discussion with a diverse group of learning professionals attending Learning Technologies 2018. The topic of discussion centred on understanding your users and ensuring the content you are designing meets their needs. 

Myles encouraged participants to get in to the right mind-set by asking: ‘Why don’t we always do what users need’? Also the very basic but often missed proposition; who are we doing this for?  Putting users at the heart of your learning content design strategy and practice is how you improve content design. Myles asked participants to consider the 3P’s – purpose, principles and personas.

Purpose – What is it for?

What is in it for me (what’s the benefit to users) and what is my best route to get there? The more clarity and focus you can achieve in distilling and then communicating this to users the better for your end product.

Personas: Who is this for and why do they need it?

‘The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference’ *. By asking yourself these questions you’ll be able to express and focus on the major needs and expectations of your most important user groups. Your thinking as you build your personas should describe real people with various backgrounds, goals and values.

Principles – These underpin how you work for your users.

Focus on things that really matter, describe how you will work and communicate, challenge, and be clear what you will not Are you going to make decisions based only on data? Will you only be digital first and mobile first?

Empathy is your first (and last) thought?

To get on your users onside you must understand what their situation is.

Engagement – prototype, and bring people along with you, rather than just presenting them with the end product.

This doesn’t need to be complicated, you can build basic story boards which you can then talk them through. If you don’t have access to the end user this can be difficult but you need to build this extra hurdle in to your engagement strategy and think how you can use your influencing skills to ensure this access is available.

Find and develop the right skills and roles – do you have the right skill-set in your team?

Project management, content production, data and analytics, design and development skills will increase the chances of delivering on user needs and, if if your budget allows, bring in product managers to work alongside your L&D teams, they can unlock a lot of problems faster.


With so many challenges; time, access and budget being some, let your users do some of the hard work for you and lighten your load. Don’t toil alone – this process should be collaborative. Pilot your ideas, let them be challenged, think outside the box and bring your users along on this journey.


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