Three great articles cover what you should know about personas
The foundation of creating an appropriate user experience is identifying the person who will be using your product. The product could be a website, the branding and marketing utilized to create a call to action, or simply the person to whom you wish to communicate.
We found three extremely helpful articles on the topic.
The Essence of a Successful Persona Project comes from Jared Pool of User Interface Engineering. Mr. Pool summarizes the importance of a well-crafted persona and identifies some techniques of confirming whether the persona is on target. Here’s a great excerpt:
Personas are a flexible and powerful tool for user researchers. They’re also one of the most misunderstood. When done well, they ensure the team focuses on the needs and delights of their users.
For the last few years, we’ve studied how a variety of design teams have tried to harvest the benefits of persona projects. We’ve explored several wildly successful persona projects and many that fell far short of their goals. We now better understand where the magic lies with personas – what the essence of a successful project is.
Once you have created a persona, the next step is testing and adjusting the persona to ensure the user is correctly identified. Perfecting Your Personas, by Kim Goodwin, touches on the importance of the function of personas. These are psychological summaries of your target user. It’s important that a persona represents behavior and not a job description. Goodwin states:
Although tasks are an important part of understanding users, a good persona description is not a list of tasks or duties; it’s a narrative that describes the flow of someone’s day, as well as their skills, attitudes, environment, and goals. A persona answers critical questions that a job description or task list doesn’t, such as: Which pieces of information are required at what points in the day? Do users focus on one thing at a time, carrying it through to completion, or are there a lot of interruptions? Why are they using this product in the first place?
Finally, it is important not to go overboard on the persona! Unless certain hobbies, behaviors or attributes of your user affect the way they will use your product, there is no value in hyper-qualifying detailed information. A tendency for those writing personas is to add less useful information to give the impression of how precise the target is. It may not matter that Betty collects stamps, enjoys “My Name is Earl,” or only eats food without trans fats if you are designing around her as a user of carpet cleaner. There are some companies who have gone so far as to create entire living rooms for target personas in order to get ‘into their head.’ This may be going too far. Kim Goodwin addresses these dangers in the Taking Personas Too Far. She lists three types of persona communication as being most important:
- Detailed descriptions
- Quick reference tools
- Meeting to introduce personas
Ultimately, the creation of a persona to represent your user is a highly effective and sometimes revealing process. Do your homework, understand the final product and continue to delight your user!