Personapeople

One of the most useful of tools of human-centered design are personas. They are a wonderful form of synthesis upon completion of primary user research. They become a lens through which design and business teams can define users; understand their goals, needs, behaviors, and motivations; and remain objective when determining the features that may satisfy those needs.

However, I would almost guarantee that from one design agency to the next you would be hard-pressed to find a consistent definition of personas, why they are useful, how to create them, who should create them, and how to use personas during the design and marketing of new products, services, communications, and well…just about anything that can be designed for people! And because agencies present personas in different ways to the marketplace, businesses are also often unclear on what qualifies a persona to be a truly reliable and quality persona. Arriving at reliability and quality is a question of degree. The degree of insight and information the design team has at their disposal, the means in which it was obtained, and the skill at surfacing the important dimensions of the persona are critical to building confidence that teams can indeed make important design and business decisions that they can stand by.

The questions of degree in the creation process look something like this…

  •  Personas created in an hour or less by one person with a good imagination and good storytelling abilities.
  •  Personas created by 3 or 4 smart people having a short brainstorming session.
  • Personas created by a marketer by abstracting from market segmentation studies
  • Personas created by a designer upon reading a series of third-party research reports on target markets.
  • Personas created by a business strategist with the insights derived from the statistical analysis of extensive survey data
  • Personas created by a designer after researching, scripting, and interviewing at least 12 people who are representative of the target audience
  • Personas created by a designer after researching, scripting, and interviewing at least 12 people who are representative of the target audience, and understanding the behaviors and motivations of users in their context of use and experience
  • Personas created by a designer after researching, scripting, and interviewing at least 12 people who are representative of the target audience, and understanding the behaviors and motivations of users in their context of use and experience, and the additional insights derived from the statistical analysis of extensive survey data to add depth to the in-person observations and insights.

Let’s face it…it is not always possible to have the time and budget for crafting well-researched, empathy-driven personas. And so we, designers, need to answer the question… is any personification worth creating because all level of personas have some value. If we answer “Yes”, I suggest we may need to create a classification system that allows us to be clear on what information and insight inspires the persona and what decisions can comfortably be made as a result. This classification could allow us all to accurately market the values of rich personas, the ones that are derived from in-person end-user research, crafted with the strong visuals and focused copy, socialized throughout the organization, and living models that inform design and marketing decisions over time.

(This blog was first published at www.mediacatalyst.com/blog)

 

About the Author Brian Gillespie

As an independent consultant specializing in the design and innovation of business I help my clients and partners manage the diverse activities associated with driving business success by design. With a background in UX, CX and Service Design I focus on researching, designing and managing for integrated multi-touchpoint digital and physical customer experience ecosystems. I collaborate with an extensive network of exceptional and cutting-edge design agencies and talented individuals worldwide. My work is predominantly carried out in Europe and the US. Recent productive collaborations include PARK, Mad*Pow, and the E*TRADE UX team. Recent clients include global firms in financial services, pharmaceuticals, and technology. ​​ Let's collaborate!

Leave a Reply