Figure 1 – Mailchimp Personas (Tagged, 2013)
While Personas don’t have a commonly identified definition, as a relatively new idea conceived in the 1990’s, one way to define them can be a “representation of a particular audience for what you are designing based on Qualitative and Quantitative research.”
The idea is to capture the user’s motives, frustrations and essence of who they are, in doing so this helps you to understand the user and help to make key decisions like functionality with your own designs. They also help to create realistic user journeys.
Figure 2 – Social Network Illustrated Personas (Varma, 2014)
There are a number of ways to create a persona through research, speaking to the client, speaking to the user directly, analytics, style profiling and social media interactions. More research from more sources equals a better value result, though some sources may use perceptions that are actually untrue.
There are a number of things to include in a persona which are as follows:
- Goals in relation to your product
- Interaction with technologies
- Motivations to use your product
- Current pain points/frustrations
- Demographic Data such as Age/Gender/Location
- A direct quote (in context)
- A Biography of their background
- Technical abilities
- Other brands they might like
- A photograph of this user persona
- Emotional state
An example persona may include sections such as personality, demographic, needs, background, motivations, scenarios and features. The main perceived benefits to personas are increasing the focus of the designer and it’s an effective communication tool.
Figure 3 – Dolby Consumer Personas (Goltz, 2014)
There are four main perspectives to personas, goal directed where multiple created personas and condensed into one final key persona, role based where they are created through data driven research, engaging perspective where stories are told to gets insights through how humans interact with each other using psycho-social characteristics and fiction based where intuition and experience helps to create the extreme characters where design insights can be created in areas where data may not be able to provide.
The key negative to using fiction to create a personas, it’s not scientific or based on facts or even outside sources, assumptions and opinions are a risky source for creating a research tool to reinforce your own ideas about how to proceed with a project, you can see the problem, you have an idea, you do research to justify the creation, you create a fictional personas that justifies your idea, you proceed with your idea off the back of your own fiction, the lack of basis in fact means you could be designing in completely the wrong way for your end user. You may also be prone to stereotyping your user, some stereotypes far from cover the actual behaviour and attitudes of the users you are designing for.
Figure 4 – Commuter Personas (Kaestel, no date)
A well crafted persona will help to predict user behaviour and should revolve if goal based around experience goals, end goals and life goals, though i think this would be difficult if your persona is a child who is far from deciding great long term decisions in their life at this point in their journey.
Field data can be treated as a form of communication in a persona. Personas offer three forms of identification:
- Recognition – constructing as individuals
- Allignment – in relation to character actions
- Allegance – the moral evaluation of a character
There are two forms of development you may want to attempt in a persona, plot driven devices which will give you flat characters with limited traits where the focus is on the plot over character, the other form, the opposite is character driven, where a character has multiple traits and unpredictable development as the plot unfolds.
To created a well rounded character you need three things Pshysignomy, Sociology and Psychology in a balance forming a triangle to acheive this, it will show the characters motivations behind an action in a scenario using the past and present in relation to themselves and others. The rounded character will develop in a story with many traits but be based in a specific time, culture and interactions within context.
Figure 5 – Consumer Narratives (How user Personas can improve your SEO strategy, 2016)
Personas can tell stories, be presented in 2D or even with actors, they can tell a narrative and describe scenarios that work as long as there is a begining, middle and end with proper closure, character in a location as part of a plot being told through an appropriate voice trying to achieve a goal advancing the story overcoming obstacles in scenarios before resolution.
The advantage to stepping things up and using such approaches in a persona is that they are relatable and easy enough to understand if told well enough and clearly enough, this requires the designer to have the right knowledge and expertise to tell the story/scenario with the tools they have available to them, they do however lack data evidence and they don’t focus on the user so strongly, user engagement is also missing.
Figure 6 – Outreach Programme Personas (Dobrescu, 2015)
Sloppy research can ruin a persona, especially if the designer/user does not fully understand what the undefined persona is. Another issue is using very well developed personas with vague undeveloped personas, the quality of the overall end result is reduced due to this lack of consistency between the personas used.
As we draw this subject to a close, the key advantages revolve around user understanding, showing knowledge in application and reflection in action. The negatives are also present the lack of data/scientific evidence can make this method increasingly opinion based, full of assumptions tainted by agenda or stereotype, this is not a method to be used as a sole justification to go ahead with a project/design process. I personally prefer this method when based in data and fact and only enhanced with any assumptions or fiction, the data makes it valid, the fiction helps to communicate and engage the reader, to develop any key patterns identified in the formal data collection.
Figure 7 – Customer Service Personas (Customer service Personas, 2014)
Customer service Personas (2014) Available at: http://www.aspect.com/customer-service-personas (Accessed: 19 November 2016).
Dobrescu, G. (2015) Week 2 – Personas. Available at: https://ginadobrescu.wordpress.com/outreachy-program/week-2-personas/ (Accessed: 19 November 2016).
Goltz, S. (2014) A closer look at Personas: A guide to developing the right ones (part 2) – smashing magazine. Available at: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/08/a-closer-look-at-personas-part-2/ (Accessed: 19 November 2016).
How user Personas can improve your SEO strategy (2016) Available at: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/user-personas-for-seo/ (Accessed: 19 November 2016).
Kaestel, M. (no date) Mathias Kaestel. Available at: http://www.mathiaskaestel.com/portfolio/opalwave/ (Accessed: 19 November 2016).
Tagged, G. (2013) New MailChimp: User persona research | MailChimp Email marketing Blog. Available at: https://blog.mailchimp.com/new-mailchimp-user-persona-research/ (Accessed: 19 November 2016).
Varma, T. (2014) Kristijan Matas. Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/Managewell/personas-34655305 (Accessed: 19 November 2016).