There are different ways to assess the work with Personas and many variations of documents are available out there. This article doesn’t seek a new definition, but it explores usage reasons and confers a thought on the creative process.
Personas are an essential Interaction Design tool, that can be created based on appropriated investigations. They help designers figure out how people behave, what are their frustrations, their goals, and how they use the products and services we are studying or designing.
Personas are documents that describe fictional people, based on researching real users.
They can be related to the extreme but also the average profiles, bringing negative and positive impressions about the product or service value, or reflecting the majority part of users. With this, we try to represent the amplitude of the target user’s characteristics and discover some helpful particularities about them.
By using personas, businesses can be more strategic in reaching their customers. It happens because they can delineate the problem dimension and show how we are affecting people’s lives. That benefits all stakeholders, including the design team.
Personas are not deliverables.
Generally, people don’t see value on personas and don’t understand them as a deliverable unless they are part of its creation process. They must take action and decisions using them. Don’t try following a persona recipe you see out there and imagine that you are activating value to your client. If you are crafting them as a deliverable, you may be losing time and effort.
Personas can be particularly useful and benefit your design team when used as a connection between research and information architecture. They synthesize the user research results and become a powerful iteration tool for your team.
When they are well-composed, we use personas whenever we have questions or suppositions on how we should design a product or service. For example, every time you need to decide whether you should be designing a feature or not, you could ask:
- Does this feature attend to the needs of our personas?
- Would Rose (a persona) be able to fill this form?
- Are we communicating well our service pricing to Jake?
- Maybe Laure needs to be convinced more effectively in this interaction.
That’s how you should be using personas: taking action and iterating rapidly and continuously. Don’t let them end up in a drawer.
Are demographics villains?
marketing agency personas generally starts like this: Joseph is married, is 37 years old, has two kids, lives in a comfortable house in Amsterdam, and is a polo player. These descriptions are made to frame people into media plan frameworks. They are acceptable when you are planning advertising campaigns, but you won’t be able to make design decisions with that alone.
Personas must express people’s real demands, disappointments and hopes, revealing their mood over our product value proposition.
Maybe, our persona, Joseph, doesn’t even like to play polo, but he uses this as an opportunity to share a moment of leisure with his friends. That’s how we should appropriate of the stories created for these characters to make sense of working with personas.
By using demographic data, the design team may follow some subconscious beliefs. Commonly, we put our bias over some personas’ characteristics such as the place of origin, gender, age, and ethnicity. Therefore, if you are designing a persona which is not that familiar with technological devices, try putting someone younger and not the lazy stereotype of an older person.
‘Demographics can cause assumptions, shortcuts in thinking, and subconscious stereotypes by team members.’ Indi Young — Describing Personas
In conclusion, avoid following marketing agency personas recipes because they are made to understand WHO are the people using our product or service. Design personas aim for WHY people are our users, and you are probably not obtaining this with demographics.
Personas are an empathy instrument.
Empathy is the fundamental pillar when developing systems that aim for notable user experiences. Understanding the people that are going to utilize our product or service is a critical step in this process.
Document your discoveries in personas and share them with your team and clients, so they may have an empathic perception of your users and how their lives are affected.
In my experience, personas are deeply relevant but not absolute. Ask yourself how you intend to use them and which gains you expect before you even start.