Personas are a design tool that helps guide the design process. They are fictional characters that represent a typical group of users. Personas an example of the type of person that would interact with a set product or service. After collecting both qualitative and quantitative information about users, designers create these personas to comprehend this information. These personas help us as designers understand how our users really think, what they feel, what makes them tick, what motivates them and what frustrates them. It is a way for us to understand our users’ behaviour and personality and how we can design for them. Without knowing about the people we are designing for it would be impossible to create products or services that fulfil the users’ needs.
I believe that using personas in the early stage of the design process helps me keep in mind the real needs of my user, it is a way to see through their eyes. Normally when I have created personas for design projects, I tend to think of them as real people, like one more team member. I create a cartoon or I print a large real size picture of him/her and I have it present whenever I am brainstorming or conceptualizing ideas. This helps me keep focus and ask myself questions like: what would he/she think. Would he/she use this product or service? How would he/she react to this brand or this colour? Would he talk about it with his/her friends?
Most of the examples of personas I find are a short paragraphs with a description and a photo. This is one example (Calabria, 2004)
“Bob is 52 years old and works as a mechanic with an organisation offering road service to customers when their car breaks down. He has worked in the job for the past 12 years and knows it well. Many of the younger mechanics ask Bob for advice when they meet up in the depot as he always knows the answer to tricky mechanical problems. Bob likes sharing his knowledge with the younger guys, as it makes him feel a valued part of the team.
Bob works rolling day and night shifts and spends his shifts attending breakdowns and lockouts (when customers lock their keys in the car). About 20% of the jobs he attends are complex and he occasionally needs to refer to his standard issue manuals. Bob tries to avoid using the manuals in front of customers as he thinks it gives the impression he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Bob has seen many changes over the years with the company and has tried his best to move with the times. However he found it a bit daunting when a new computer was installed in his van several years ago, and now he has heard rumours that the computer is going to be upgraded to one with a bigger screen that’s meant to be faster and better.
Bob’s been told that he will be able to access the intranet on the new computer. He has heard about the intranet and saw once in an early version on his manager’s computer. He wonders if he will be able to find out want’s going on in the company more easily, especially as customers’ seem to know more about the latest company news than he does when he turns up at a job. This can be embarrassing and has been a source of frustration for Bob throughout his time with the company.
Bob wonders if he will be able to cope with the new computer system. He doesn’t mind asking his grandchildren for help when he wants to send an email to his brother overseas, but asking the guys at work for help is another story.” (Calabria T. 2004)
By having this type of descriptions is it easy to create a picture in your head about this type of user, and to predict possible outcomes about products or services. This allow us as designers to get into the users head and think the way the might think and thus understand how their behaviour could affect the design.
Another example could be seen in this image:
Figure 1: Webcredible. (2010) Samantah Bell. Available at: http://www.webcredible.com/blog/personas-definitive-guide/ (Accessed: 11 October 2015).
Moreover, I found a very interesting way of showing the information about a persona, different to a normal description. Fig 2 User Persona Basic Layout (Adell, et al) shows a more visual way of organizing the key points of a persona. I see it like a CV that allows people that read it to get a clear understanding about how this persona might think and behave in certain situations.
Figure 2: UXLady. (2013) User Persona Basic Layout. Available at: http://www.ux-lady.com/introduction-to-user-personas/ (Accessed: 15 October 2016)
This layout includes information about the basic profile of the persona, demographics and psychographic information. It also includes information about the personality, expertise, influences and aspirations of the person. Something I found very powerful is to also include information about things this persona would never ever do, because it is a way to test their limits and frustrations.
CALABRIA, T. (2004) An introduction to personas and how to create them. Available at: http://www.steptwo.com.au/papers/kmc_personas/ (Accessed: 15 October 2015)
SAURO, J. (2012) 7 Core Ideas About Personas And The User Experience. Available at: http://www.measuringu.com/blog/personas-ux.php (Accessed: 14 October 2015)
UXLADY (2013) Introduction to User Personas. Available at: http://www.ux-lady.com/introduction-to-user-personas/ (Accessed: 16 October 2015)