User Role Modeling

User Role Modeling

User Role is “A…collection of defining attributes that define a population of users and their intended interactions” We think of individuals in the context of the problems they need to solve and the characteristics they have that impact or are impacted by the problems at hand. “Roles” are people acting in a specific context solving a specific need or problem. An individual may have many roles.

Role Modeling

The goal of Role Modeling identify as many stakeholders as possible, their needs/problems and relevant attributes that characterize the role The stages below will generally be undertaken sequentially but are not mutually exclusive. The processes should be thought of as guidelines to be adapted as necessary by individual design teams.


• ID individual roles, name them on individual index cards, everyone can participate and write out cards

• ID the “must-have” need or problem that characterizes that role

• Continue until the group feels it is hard to come up with more unique roles


• Organize and group roles into “buckets” by similar or related attributes or need/problem. For example one simple generic set of buckets forms a 2×2 matrix; consumer-suppliers, within the organization-external to the organization. Other buckets might be specific to an organization. Let identification of the buckets emerge from the process of organizing and grouping.

• Consolidate and condense the roles. Merge duplicates, discuss as necessary.

• Identify relationships between roles as necessary. For example “is a type of” reveals levels of abstraction, “is related to” enables the team to identify relationships that might be significant to business processes. Record key relationships in some way.

• Within the buckets, “Place” the roles in Proximity to the organization according to how important and how easy it is for the organization to address the problem encountered by the role.


• Iteratively refine the attributes and define new attributes that are pertinent to the role. A significant attribute is one that impacts or is impacted by the need/problem and the solution the company is providing or that helps to uniquely characterize the role in a way that is meaningful to the team and the business. This process can continue after the initial design session.


While an individual team can determine the final form of documentation that might be useful to it and other stakeholders, the initial work product is usually a stack of index cards, one for each significant stakeholder role, on which is written the role name, key problem, key attributes and key relationships to other roles. This can be turned into more formal documentation as necessary.