Whether you are working on a website, mobile app or a physical product (like a better mousetrap!), incorporating personas into your design process makes it easier to keep a customer (user-centered) focus.
What is a persona? It is a fictional person — an archetype — who represents an important group of customers for your website, mobile app or product. Although we should use as much data as we can when developing personas (such as web site log files, surveys, usability sessions), research suggests that even ad hoc personas can help the design team. Here’s Don Norman:
[T]he Persona is a tool for focus and an aid to communication, and for this purpose they only need to be realistic, not real, not necessarily even accurate (as long as they accurately characterize the user base)…
… a major virtue of Personas is the establishment of empathy and understanding of the individuals who use the product. It is important that each Persona seems real, allowing the designer to ask, “how would Mary respond to this?” or Peter, or Bashinka?
It’s important to focus on behavior not job descriptions and to think about experience goals. What’s an experience goal? Not feeling stupid! (hat tip to Steve Krug) Does the customer want a piece of software that is “easy to learn” or does she want to become increasingly proficient over time without feeling stupid in the process?
At their best, personas provide rich stories that the design team can use internally and externally to communicate ideas and build a customer-centered product.
- Case study, personas and third-year design students, Frank Long, Irish Ergonomics Review, Proceedings of the IES Conference 2009, Dublin.
- The origin of personas, Alan Cooper.
- Persona creation and usage tool kit (pdf), George Olson.
- Personas and storytelling, Whitney Quesenbery .
- Personas in user-centered design, Shawn L Henry, author of Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design.
- Personas, participatory design and product development (pdf), John Pruitt and Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft.
- Personas: practice and theory (pdf), John Pruitt and Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft.
- Putting personas to work (presentation, pdf), Whitney Quesenbery.
- UCD personas, Web Accessibility Initiative