…designers can make life more bearable by producing stuff that touches its audience rather than fucks them in the head. — Jon Wozencraft
I’ve recently visited design team of one of the top tier IT companies in Silicon Valley. 150 designers working hard on solving complex problems in their cubicles. Pleasure to watch, even if (like me) you find cubicles rather repulsive. Something particularly interesting in their huge office space was that… cubicles and walls were covered with personas, journey maps and other design artefacts.
When I naivly asked what’s the story behind all these papers on the wall, I’ve been told that designers are trying to inspire, share knowledge and gather feedback. They deliberately facilitate conversations around their workspace to deepen understanding of problems that they’re trying to solve. They’re reaching beyond their local maximum of knowledge to feed their empathy muscles and design something outside of their own limits.
The most popular artefact hanging on the wall was definitely a persona. What’s that?
A persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences, lifestyle choices, and the like. Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a “type” regardless of age, gender, education, and other typical demographics. In fact, personas vastly span demographics. / http://uxmag.com/articles/personas-the-foundation-of-a-great-user-experience
How to design a persona?
First of all try to gather data. In my experience the best solution is to mix quantitative data available from research papers and qualitative data gathered in customer development interviews. Designing personas without any data is just a weird play that won’t help you design the next big thing.
Those two sources of data combined let you find subgroups worth focusing on and allow description of each subgroup in a generalised way.
Secondly… just use one of many templates available online such as the following:
Now… why bother? Why to use Personas in the first place?
- Persona is your anchor that will prevent you from driftting away from understanding of the problems of users towards endless sea of futile creativity
- Personas enhance empathy in the team. Just thinking about feelings, behaviour and needs of users, gives you the right perspective on the whole problem you’re fighting to solve.
- Personas enhance people-focused conversations. Introducing this design artefact to your design process will certainly bring on some conversations. At least on of them will start with “why the hell should we use this?” — that’s your time to shine. Explain thatdesign is all about caring and understanding other human beings.
Be careful though. The danger of using personas in a bad manner is that you’ll end up with walls covered by useless crap. If your personas:
- are not used to deepen understanding of your target users group;
- are not connected to the rest of the design process (nobody refers to them during the prototyping phase, graphic design and final review etc.)
you wasted your time crafting them.
Check out how UXPin let you connect your Personas and the rest of design process: