Written by Brightec Team
Nov 03, 2016

Using Personas

We use personas as part of our design to keep the process user focused. For many clients, the persona is a new concept and they’re greeted with a mix of enthusiasm and scepticism. So what are they and how should you use them?

What is a persona?

Personas are a model created by researchers designers to represent the users of the product being created. They enable everybody involved in the project to keep the user at the centre of the design and development phase.

Preferably based upon research but sometimes upon assumptions, personas consist of a user’s needs, goals and frustrations as well as key demographic information.

"Personas enable everybody involved in the project to keep the user at the centre of design and development"

How to use personas

Creating a Persona

In an ideal sprint, the Persona would be created at the end of the research phase.

Personas work well alongside user journeys to summarise the behaviours and frustrations of the users, as well as presenting a key demographic.

It’s important to pull out any key quotes and observations and get these into the final persona. Any patterns noticed, such as which social media the main demographic are using or which pre-existing competitors are used, should be added to the persona as it helps to keep the user in context. 

Structuring the Persona

We structure personas by using a grid of 4 cells. In the first cell is an icon of the user. We use this instead of a photograph so the overall picture of the user remains based on the research rather than on assumptions based on stereotypes. In the second grid, we add behavioural demographic information. In the third cell we add the pain points and needs of a user and in the fourth cell any initial suggestions for how the product might help to solve these problems.

Primary and secondary personas

"The goal is to find a single persona from the set whose needs and goals can be completely and happily satisfied by a single interface without disenfranchising any of the other personas" - Alan Cooper, About Face 2.0.

Each primary persona needs their own interface.

For example, a music streaming site might have a sign-up system for artists wishing to post music but also an account sign-up system for fans wanting to listen to music.

Or, a crowdfunding site might have one account system for people wishing to raise money and another for people wishing to spend money on campaigns.

For this, I would use two separate primary personas. Following the primary persona comes the secondary personas. If you can meet the needs of the primary persona then the needs of the secondary personas will automatically be met.

Having created our personas, we think very clearly about which will be our primary personas and which will be our secondary personas.

When it comes to sketching initial ideas, we will always be looking to meet the needs of the primary persona but ensuring that the needs of the secondary personas are also met.

Proto personas

“Proto-personas are a technique to provoke empathetic, customer-oriented thinking without necessarily requiring you to do exhaustive customer research or have loads of statistical data to underpin your thinking” - Lean Buley from UX Team of One.

If time doesn’t permit extensive research, then a persona can still be useful for keeping the user in mind when creating an MVP.  

We can create proto-personas which follow the basic structure of a persona but are based on assumptions rather than research.

“In Lean UX, we change the order of operations in the persona process. When creating personas in this approach, we start with assumptions and then do research to validate our assumptions. Instead of spending months in the field interviewing people, we spend a few hours creating proto-personas.”  - Jeff Gothelf, Lean UX

Once the sketch of a persona has been created it can constantly be updated once further insights are gained about the user, ultimately creating a more accurate picture of who the product is helping.

When to use personas

We find personas particularly useful when carrying out design workshops with clients.

They are great for framing the problem that users are encountering. It creates an important structure for clients that might not have previous workshop experience to frame their sketches and ideas.

Further through the design phase it keeps the user at the center of design critiques. It helps to remove subjectivity from critiquing sessions as the users frustrations and goals can be used to drive design sessions.

This post was originally written for Brightec by Ed Jenkins

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