Are personas worth keeping? Better yet, what are they? You’ve done the research. You know about the users. Shouldn’t that be enough to make design decisions? So can we kick the personas out; once and for all? Let’s see…
What's a persona?
Its fiction based on research, representing a user that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way. Make sense? Aurora Harley a Senior User Experience Specialist with Nielsen Norman Group said it best... "A persona is a fictional, yet realistic, description of a typical or target user of the product. A persona is an archetype instead of an actual living human, but personas should be described as if they were real people."
Why create them?
Well they help you to understand your users’ needs, experiences, behaviours and goals. You’ll get out of your skin and step into their shoes. Relate, empathize, identify with the user you’re designing for. It’ll help you make a connection with the user and guide your ideation process. The end goal, it helps to create a good user experience for your user group. Most of all, you avoid designing a product that you like to use and deliver something that your users like.
The basic structure of a persona is simple:
- The name of the persona. Usually this is fictional
- Job title and profession
- A photograph to help you relate better to your persona
- Demographic information: like age, marital and social status
- Users goals and fears, from general goals, to product specific ones and their agitations
You can come up with a persona like this, in a couple of minutes. However, to be of any real value it needs to be based on real users and real user research.
Here’s an example of a Boligmappa user persona:
Job title: Professional
- 40 y/o
- Wife and 3 children
- Lives in a house on the countryside
- Works with installation and repairs at a large company
Behaviours and beliefs
- Laid back, calm, careful, practical
- Fairly sceptical about new technology. Uses a smartphone and a laptop for personal and official matters
- Stian’s receives job orders from the administrative department. He uses a digital system to review the specifications and property information prior to meeting a customer and performing the requested work. He does not take a laptop for a client meetup as he feels it's impractical, instead he uses a smartphone. To verify something whenever he encounters any ambiguities, he contacts someone at work to access the system and retrieve the information for him. Whenever he encounters information that should be documented, it’s submitted to a co-worker in office for documentation.
- He likes to have access to documentation related to work when he is out of office
- Does not like to spend time on paperwork but needs to be able to document things
- Wants the documentation process within the company to proceed smoothly
How you can create a good user persona
Always use real data
Don't just make up stuff. Maybe you want to make Stian's character more interesting by making him a Formula One driver but is it accurate? If so, will he still be in your user group? Your personas are only as strong as the data supporting them. The more you stray from real data, the less effective the persona will be.
The persona you create should be an authentic representation of your user. And the only way to achieve this is by conducting user research through questionnaires, interviews, and observations. The easiest way to get some user info, is to conduct a survey. It’s the best way to get your questions answered.
Analyse your data
Review the surveys and the interview responses to identify your core user groups and their product requirements. Next try to identify similarities between the various responses given. Take a pack of post-it notes and organise them into themed groups to construct distinct user personas.
Create multiple personas for different groups
Personas are fictional representations of your user groups. If you have many user groups, simply make a single persona for each user group, to cater to different segments. Your personas embody key characteristics of your main user groups.
Get cracking! Go personify!