I have to admit that when I started my career in design about 7 years ago, creating personas was one of the most useless and weird step in the whole design process. I was trying to avoid this part as much as possible. I read books and online articles about personas and then I started creating them mostly because that’s what I read rather than because I thought they were useful. None of my colleagues wanted to allocate time for this “stupid” step either because they had more important stuff to do.
Few years ago I was working as a design consultant for a project in the healthcare industry which made me realise how important personas are.
I was following my usual design process jumping straight to wireframes and building UI prototypes. I knew I was building something for people working in hospitals but I had no idea who these people are. I ignored the user completely.
I built the prototype and went around in a hospital to do some usability testing. It was the first time when I was meeting my users and I was shocked when I saw that most of my users were women over 40 years old which only use a computer at work and only use the applications related to work, have no smartphones and the only browser they ever heard about is Internet Explorer.
It was the first time when I asked myself “who is the user?” and I learnt my lesson that day.
Design for somebody who doesn’t exist and you’ll have no customers
Building personas is an essential step in understanding who are your users. Personas will be helpful for everybody in the team and not just for UX Designers. All stakeholders must take part in this process to make sure they all know who the users are.
A Persona is:
- the archetype of a person who will use your product
- a realistic description about a specific user you target
- the first step in the design process
A Persona’s role is:
- To help everybody in the team have a common understanding about who is their target
- Help the team be more empathetic with users
- Affect the entire design process
A Persona should answer the following questions:
- What is the action the user is trying to take? (objectives)
- Why is the user trying to do this? (motivation)
- What are the obstacles? (frustrations)
- How do they react? (behaviour)
- What are the limits? (constraints)
What should be included in a Persona?
I don’t think there is a standard on how a persona should look like but I think it should contain most if not all of the things below:
- name, age, gender, profession, photo
- a short description about the user
- the daily objectives and behaviours
- the level of experience in that industry
- how often is using the product/website/mobile application
- the devices which are used (desktop, smartphones, tablets… etc) and the operating system (iOS, Mac OSX, Windows,Android)
- other products the user likes
Designers have the ability to be more empathetic and they can put themselves in the user’s shoes but most of the times they forget who their users are. Creating personas will bring you on the right path and will help you better evaluate your decisions and the direction you want to take.