Discovery Research


As part of discovery research before the redesign of the Harvard Library website I created tailored interview guides for students, faculty, and researchers to understand their needs when using the library online. The custom interview questions were critical to making sure we understood the different types of users and their specific motivations for using the libraries.

Interview guides for library users

After the interviews were conducted, I reviewed the results and created four personas: Curious Carlotta, Rigorous Richard, Engaged Ella, and Overstretched Owen. Each had their own goals based on what we heard during the interviews. I gathered feedback from stakeholders on the draft of these personas to review for any gaps.



In addition to getting feedback from important project sponsors, the persona stakeholder sessions were an opportunity to teach stakeholders about personas as a tool. Because they were able to participate in the process of drafting this critical artifact, it increased their familiarity with our personas, and grounded the redesign in user needs.

Critical Insights
  • Awareness of library services outside of books and study space is low.
  • Visiting researchers have trouble finding the information they need.
  • Libraries across Harvard feel disconnected from each other.
  • Many scholars have multiple affiliations, making access policies confusing.
  • Much of the publicly available content the library has is difficult to find.

The personas were effective and memorable because they used consistent photos, alliterative names, and specific details. One of the first discussions the product team had was who our primary persona for most decisions would be – the team chose “Overstretched Owen.” The team used these personas as a research touchstone throughout the redesign project to keep our work user-focused.

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