About Personas

If you look up the definition of persona you will learn there are various types of persona, each different depending on their context of use. There are persona for literature, music, video games, communication studies, psychology, marketing and user experience design. Although their use varies, personas typically include people, actions,  behaviors, a back story, and specific context or scenario.

If you plan to develop and  use persona in your experience design work, make sure you follow a structured approach.

Identify the target users

There are many ways to identify target user segments. You could pour through customer data, help desk transcripts or survey results to identify and define segments. Segments may be defined by demographics, psychographics, or behavior patterns like product engagement. You may use product engagement to categorize user segments

  • Primary – Someone who will use the product most frequently
  • Secondary – Someone who will use the product occasionally
  • Affected – Someone who doesn’t use the product directly but is affected by product

Regardless of what segment categorization you use, consider the neediness of the target user. Folks who really need your product tend to provide rich and meaningful conversations that lead to broader understanding their experiences.

Interview real people

  • Identify and recruit 3-5 users from each segment to interview
  • Interviews should be contextual. You should try to conduct the interviews where the interviewee would likely be using your product.
  • Be mindful of participants’ time and keep the interviews under an hour. You can always extend if it’s going well.
  • Always provide compensation. A participant’s time is valuable. The best way to ensure participants block time for you is to buy that time up front.
  • Set expectations. Let participants know the purpose of the interview and provide a brief outline so they can become comfortable with the format. Call ahead. An email is no substitute for a conversation.

Prepare for the interviews

  • Develop a facilitator guide for interviews to ensure consistency and productivity for each interview.
  • Follow a probing interview style. The goal is to learn as much as you can about specific situations, behaviors and attitudes. Encourage participants to share professional stories and outcomes and how they felt about it. This will provide great material for developing compelling persona.
  • Enlist the help of marketing, product, development or quality assurance teams for field studies. The more folks are involved with the research, the more they will champion the use of personas throughout the design and development cycle.

Develop rich profiles

  • Review all interview notes and develop a content outline.
  • Include psychological, physiological, and sociological traits.
  • Include goals and how they accomplish their goals
  • Include needs, desires, and ambitions.
  • Include specific scenarios and use cases.
  • Make sure persona content is relevant, differentiating, or additive to the understanding of the persona

Make persona accessible

  • Proofread the work. Poorly written persona can make them unusable.
  • Evaluate each persona by a standard set of criteria.
    1. Does the persona sound like a real person?
    2. Is the persona’s narrative compelling?
    3. Does the persona call out key attributes and high-level goals?
    4. Is the persona focused on enabling design decisions?
    5. Is the persona usable?
    6. Does the persona have appropriate production values?
  • Test using the persona in a design decision. Make changes as needed and  test again. Persona should be memorable not memorized.
  • Design the presentation of the persona. Make them visually appealing and professional looking.

Hopefully these guidelines provide a good framework to follow when developing persona for your project or organization.

References

  1. Do Personas Always Have to be ‘Good’?
    by Dr. Eric Schaffer, Human Factors International – April, 2012
  2. Five Factors for Successful Persona Projects
    by Jared Spool, User Interface Engineering – June 06, 2011
  3. Persona Best Practices: Developing Your Customer Research Plan
    by Harley Manning, Forrester Research – September 23, 2004
  4. Persona Best Practices Of Interactive Agencies
    by Vidya L. Drego – August 27, 2009
  5. Persona Review Scorecard
    Forrester Research – December 2007