Personas are character profiles, which are created based on user research for products and services. The user research helps in classifying different user types who have similar behavior. These user types are then described in detail with their attributes. These representative descriptions are personas. Creating personas helps understand ones users with their needs, behavior, and expectations. Personas enable researchers to create a picture of whom they are designing for. This makes the design process much easier.
Quick details: Persona
Structure: Semi-structured, Structured
Preparation: Questionnaire, Respondent recruitment, Logistics
Deliverables: Character Profiles, Persona artifacts
More about Personas
Essentially, a persona is a model, a summary profile of user types. It is outlined as a detailed description of a specific person; however, this person is fictional. Personas help researchers focus on specific characters rather than diffuse efforts to design for a large number of users.
Personas have become increasingly popular in designing solutions that are user centered than designer. Even though personas do not describe real people, they are based on real data from real people, collected and then collated into a summarized character that has generic attributes of the user type or group, one is trying to describe.
Personas: How to create them?
In the design process, designers will often start creating personas during an early phase so that they know whom they are designing for. When creating personas, the final description was such that it can give an empathic understanding of the user types. Again, the description should include and not be limited to the user’s educational background, lifestyle, interests, values, goals, needs, behavior, attitudes and other recurring patterns. The persona must have a name and the description should be at least a couple of pages to ensure that enough thought was put into creating the persona.
Finally, the participants or users that are being studied in order to derive personas, should be asked at different points of persona development whether the personas getting created are accurate as per their understanding. If the users or the teams involved in creating the personas, see any discrepancy in the descriptions, then changes must be suggested and incorporated until a general consensus is achieved.
Advantages of Personas
1. Human centered
The process of creating and the final personas that guide the design process take into account the needs and goals of the users.
2. Simpler design process
After the Personas are created, they act as the guiding principles for the rest of the design process, making the job of the designer easier as the designer becomes aware of whom they are designing for.
3. Higher acceptance by users
As the design is in accordance with who the users are and their complete descriptions taking into account their needs and goals, the final solution is as close to what the user needs and desires which gets a higher acceptance as a result.
Disadvantages of Personas
1. Generic description & missed details
Personas are after all, a general description of a cluster of users who are grouped together based on their similar behavior, needs or goals. Therefore, not all attributes of each individual user that is part of this cluster get covered. This may lead to an important aspect of individual users getting missed, which may be important to them.
2. Time consuming
Creating personas is a time consuming and elaborate process. Time is require to first recruit users, research users, cluster them and then create personas based on that research.
3. Complex findings
Every user may have different needs, behavior, goals and prioritizing which needs, behavior patterns and goals should be part of the personas and which shouldn’t is a huge task in itself. Also, personas should incorporate exceptions or extreme user descriptions to cover all aspects of users one is designing for.
Think Design's recommendation
Since the advent of User Experience Design and its popularity became mainstream, Personas has become an indispensable activity in a designers’ to-do list. There are plenty of online resources that can guide you in creating Personas and how abstract or detailed they should be. Here, we will focus more on when to employ this method and what it brings to the table.
Persona as a hypothesis
When UXers draw a Persona without enough research before that, it is more or less a hypothesis of what that Persona represent. In this case, a Persona is not a representative of a sample size of users; in fact s/he is a character profile of a hypothesized set of users. This is certainly a great way to start off with something when you have a task at hand and do not have enough time to conduct deep research. Think Design would recommend that when you are creating a Persona as a hypothesis, do involve domain or front-end experts who may have interfaced with people to rule out designers’ assumptions of actual situation.
Persona as synthesis
In this case, your Persona would be a representative user, not exactly hypothesized. This is when you have done your primary research, have understood your users and you are in a position to look at the categories of users based on their behaviour profiles. You may have employed qualitative and experiential research techniques and the Persona you are creating here is a fair representation of your synthesis.
Persona as a Customer segment
You would arrive at this when your findings are precise enough to define Customer segments. You have more or less employed quantitative research methods such as Surveys or you may have done extensive secondary research to arrive at this. When your Persona represents a customer segment, it more or less means that you can put a value next to it; and you are also clear about certain demographic details in addition to behaviour profiles. When you create Persona this way, you are serving the needs of several departments in your organization and this could become basis for product planning, opportunity identification and investment decisions.