What is a persona anyways?
Different people, be it a User Experience Designer or someone in the Marketing department of your company may have a persona. So what does a “persona” mean in the UX world? Wikipedia defines a person as: a fictional character created to represent the different user types that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way. In other words, a user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users.
How do you make a persona?
No you don’t just make it up. Pick a fictitious name, throw some random facts on a page and say “This is our personal Sally Student.” No, no, no. You use actual user research to develop a persona. As mentioned before, a person is created from combined data based on interviews and other research methods. The most important factors in a persona are generally not demographic information like age, political interests, or what type of car a person drives. Though some of these types of factors can be used to give the persona some human characteristics and personality. They key is to use information that is important to portraying the persona. They type of driving habits a person has, would not be important for a persona representing a user of medical software. But that information would be important for an app that tracks a person’s mileage and gas consumption when they drive.
Generally personas consist of:
- The user’s name
- Age or level of expertise
- Title or some occupational reference
- And perhaps a quote that summarizes the user’s goal, feeling or general outlook about the product or process
There are many advantages of using personas. Some of these include:
- They simply provide a “face” for the user story.
- Provide an emotional link to the person so you can build empathy with that user.
- Promotes surfacing a real goal, pain points and motivations rather than just making them up as the discussion evolves.
- When you need to play out a use case, the persona is a true character to use as reference, along with all of her data and behaviors.
- Keeps the “facts” of the user more concrete. If it’s recorded on paper, traits of the user are less likely to morph and change.
- Gives the team a focal point of on person to discuss rather than a theory about a group of users. You can specifically reference how “Sally the Student” would use the product so you make sure you are meeting her goals.
- To focus the design on a “real” user rather than what we “think” is the best solution.
Now that you have a better understanding of personas, I hope that you will use them on your next project. If you are using personas now, please share your process of how you develop them and how you use them with the team.