Analysis: Day-in-the-life

The day-in-the-life walk-through of a persona provides documentation and context of the users’ work throughout the day. The day-in-the-life walk-through focuses on the user, independent of your company’s particular interest, from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to bed. The walk-through is at high-level, “5000 feet”, and shows the typical flow of work.

day in the life

The day-in-the-life walk-through is paired with the persona to provide more context into the users’ lives. This information helps the team members who are not participating in the research get a better sense of what the users do all day, what tools they use, who they talk to, and should give them a sense of when and where the solution resides. It is important for the team to understand how what they are doing fits into the big picture.

I worked on a timekeeping application and a financial advisors application. Both of these are in very different industries, however, many team members in both cases forgot or did not know that their users did not work all day in the tool they were building. In both cases, users wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible to get back to doing “real” work.

The team needs to know the context of the work that their tool and service will be in. This helps everyone to make better decisions and helps meet the end-users needs and desires.

How can you do a day-in-the-life walk-through? In the user research process, be sure to find out what the user’s typical day is like. When they wake up in the morning, do they start work right away? Within minutes of rolling over are they reading their email to get ready for the day? Are they looking up the news and market changes even before having the first cup of coffee with the newspaper? As they arrive at work, find out what they typically do. Have them show you what applications they open up, websites they go to, and meetings they attend. None of this may have anything to do with your product or service but it all starts to set the context for the world this user lives in.

Who are the people they interact with? What are the tools they use? Document what they put on sticky notes or scribble in the margins of their work. Write down the work arounds they need to do. Follow this process through to the end of the day. Go beyond leaving the office to find out what they are doing on their way home and once at home. In this mobile world, work goes with people wherever they are.


For each persona, you can aggregate this research and identify patterns. I like to draw up a high level path through the day. For each step in the path, take your sketches, pictures and screenshots to give a little visual of what the user is encountering. After documenting the day-in-the-life in this fashion, people on your team should be able to get a mental image of the world their users live in. This is the context in which the user will be using your products and services. Package the  day-in-the-life walk-through with each persona and make sure each person on the team has a copy. Have fun and good luck!

Copyright 2015 Frictionless Design LLC

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