Technique: Personas

Why use this technique?

A persona is a fictional person who acts as a representative stand-in for a large class of representative users of your products or services. Personas are helpful when you want to understand needs held by a group or class of users. Personas technique is also known as user profiles, user role definitions, or audience profiles.

How to use this technique?

The following steps will help you develop personas:
– Conduct user research: This can be done by providing answers to the following questions: Who are your users and why are they using the system? What behaviors, assumptions, and expectations color their view of the system?
– Condense the research: Look for themes/characteristics that are specific, relevant, and universal to the system and its users.
– Brainstorm: Organize elements into persona groups that represent your target users. Name or classify each group.
– Refine: Combine and prioritize the rough personas. Separate them into primary, secondary, and, if necessary, complementary categories. You should have roughly 3-5 personas and their identified characteristics.
– Make them realistic: Develop the appropriate descriptions of each personas background, motivations, and expectations. Do not include a lot of personal information. Be relevant and serious.

Tips:

When describing a persona, generally include the following key pieces of information:

  • Persona Group (i.e. web manager)
  • Fictional name
  • Job titles and major responsibilities
  • Demographics such as age, education, ethnicity, and family status
  • The goals and tasks they are trying to complete using the site
  • Their physical, social, and technological environment
  • A quote that sums up what matters most to the persona as it relates to your site
  • Casual pictures representing that user group

Advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages

  • Personas help everyone have a consistent view of major audience groups.
  • Personas are easy to communicate.
  • Personas increase empathy toward the audience and help focus on their needs.
  • Personas help prioritize possible new product features/services (based on how well they would meet the needs of a particular persona).

Disadvantages

  • Time-consuming.
  • If not enough personas are used, users are forced to fall into a certain persona type which might not accurately represent them.

Further reading:

These websites will provide you with more details on personas:

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