Mod 4- Managing Perceptions with Prof. Bjorn Akselsen
Principles of Personas
A persona is a way to model, summarize and communicate research about people who have been observed or researched in some way. Personas are presented to stakeholders in the form of documents, slides or posters, they are another type of empathic artifact as discussed in previous posts. A persona is usually a fictional person, it attempts to create a composite of a significant portion of users or customers with information drawn from research. Its intent is to maintain the focus of stakeholders, designers and developers centered on the end-user experience.
Personas aid the teams explore the needs and behaviors of specific “types” of people. These may be users different from themselves. Presenting personas is an alternative to designing experiences in a self-referential manner or for a generic conceptual “everybody”. Personas are not stereotypes. While a stereotype refers to the attributes that people think characterize a group and is usually negative. John Beckett of UX Stack Exchange explained succinctly that a stereotype has little to do with the individual, and so mostly tries to characterize them based on group affiliation or association. In other words, inferred characteristics. With a persona, you’re describing relevant attributes of some typical users, not inferring attributes based on some group affiliation or prejudice. A persona is best described as an archetype, like a character in a play, used to take on the perspective of the user.
Personas were informally developed by Alan Cooper in the early ’80s as a way to empathize with and internalize the mindset of people who would eventually use the software he was designing. Alan Cooper created and sold “Ruby”, a programming language to Microsoft which later evolved in Visual Basic. In a 2014 interview for UX collective CASCADE SF, he urged designers to “get out of the building”, which simply means to go out and talk to users, conduct research and understand the “truth” of users. The process of discovering user “truths” will ultimately lead to better designs and products.
Plan your Personas
Personas can be created in a myriad of ways, but designers are recommended to follow this general formula:
- Figure out what you want to know, define the data points are related to the user’s motivation for engaging with your product. Form a line of questioning and research techniques based on these points. These may change or become more refined as you work.
- Interview and/or observe an adequate number of people. Some input is better than no input, but gathering data from a statistically significant portion of your users will legitimize your findings and add weight to your assertions. Personas are most effective when grounded or combined with quantifiable data.
- Find patterns in the interviewees’ responses and actions, and use those to group similar people together.
- Create archetypical models of those groups, based on the patterns found.
- Drawing from that understanding of users and the model of that understanding, create user-centered designs.
- Share those models with other team members and stakeholders.
Produce & Perfect your Personas
Personas answer very specific questions. Because your product or service meets a very specific need, personas need to be customized for your particular project needs. Personas should be able to provide details to important questions that are relevant to the product experience. Domain knowledge is helpful and although the basic persona format is followed (photo, demographics, context and influence categories, etc.), relying on a general template can diminish their effectiveness. UX professionals are encouraged to modify personas based on communicating goals of users to project stakeholders in a way in which they will best empathize and understand.
To ensure your personas are accurate representations of your users and have the support of your stakeholders throughout the process, you should:
- Answer the right questions: Who are your users and why are they using the system? What behaviors, assumptions, and expectations color their view of the system? Observation is key when creating and using personas to understand what drives the user (the “whys”) so you can build around that. Personas allow you to understand, identify and communicate what the user needs efficiently and effectively. Personas, along with usability testing, identify specific opportunities to improve, innovate on, and bridge the gaps to make sure you are delivering a fully functional and usable product with the most value to the user.
- Example of a standard Persona worksheet 2Condense the research: Look for themes/characteristics that are specific, relevant, and universal to the system and its users. Make them short and sweet. Easy to scan and digest, they are often just used as a starting point for an ongoing conversation about strategy.
- 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: Although personas are a fictional composite, develop the appropriate descriptions of each personas background, motivations, and expectations. Do not include any personal information from sources. Be relevant and serious; humor is not appropriate.
Potential Problems with Personas
Personas are intended to inform perspectives and facilitate discussions. In the following section, we will look at some of the issues. When they become an added chore to workloads without the benefits, they can become superfluous. Jeff Sauro of “Measuring U” writes “Although personas provide many cost- and time-saving benefits, there is a downfall to using them. If a team spends too much effort and thought developing the persona, delving too much into the tiny details of the persona’s narrative, it can consume a sizeable amount of time in the development process and create large, cumbersome documents.”
Focus on motivation rather than opinion. Danger comes from catering to what the customer thinks he/she wants. Personas can become misleading when companies building personas from focus groups. Many times users do not know exactly what they need but think about what they want. If they do know what they need, they may not be able to articulate it well. Avoid asking for opinions and concentrate on motivators
Personas can be difficult to verify. It is important to understand that personas are a qualitative tool meant to produce a certain mindset and tone. They may be rejected or dismissed when the audience has trouble reconciling them with other information. It may also be unclear to your stakeholders who are responsible for interpreting them. Development teams receive information about users from many sources: self-observation, friends, technology media, marketing organizations, analyst reports, conferences, support cases, and so forth. They form impressions about customers and those naturally show variance from the data presented by personas.
Whose idea of the customer is truly important? Managers? Marketing? The Development Team? Perhaps using the persona as an exercise will reveal the discrepancies between those groups and help align all their (and possibly your) ideas about the user or customer. Be prepared for pushback. Before finalizing your personas it may be helpful to have stakeholders generate their own personas in order for you to better understand their perspectives as well. In other words, perform your research in the building as well.
- Create a set of customer data. Give it to independent teams and ask them to create personas. Do they arrive at similar results?
- Develop sets of real and fictional customer data, and personas based on each set. Can researchers identify which personas are based on real data and which are not?
- Educate a team with personas, and ask them inferential questions about user behavior. Do they arrive at the same inferences? Are the inferences correct?
- Assign multiple teams to design the same product, where some teams use personas and some don’t. Which teams create products that are more usable?
Plastering the walls
Once your personas have reached consensus on accuracy and agreement, it is time to plaster the walls. It is common to print large posters and hang them in office spaces, distribute reports. literature and through email.
Look for opportunities to include user profiles in other company materials such as training manuals, style guides, marketing guidelines, sales, and annual reports. Communicate your findings appropriately and as widely as possible. UX design is about collaboration, it cannot work in isolation or compartmentalized. Managing perceptions well is key.
This week we were tasked with creating personas one of the websites we analyzed in our user needs analysis to create two personas — one to represent you as a user, and another to represent a different/hypothetical type of user that might visit that same site.
The scenario: Wanting to use my personas to applied to a specific development project I created a scenario where UX researchers have been asked to explore how they could better promote a fictional AT&T account management app. Customer feedback, reviews, and support desks have all reported that customers are dissatisfied with performing account management tasks on the website. Management believes that if users adopt the mobile app, the satisfaction rate will improve.
The following are provisional personas, they are not based on research. Here are a few notes on the scope of a project, if this were an actual persona development effort. On the Google Play Store, The myAT&T App has 3.7 rating 130,000 users, assuming these are all downloads. On the Apple App Store, The myAT&T App has 4.3 rating 1.5M users, assuming these are all downloads. Based on these figures, in order to base my profiles on actual research, I would need to gather data from thousands of individuals.
As a designer, I like making them pretty. But they don’t have to be. What is important is the content and whether it helps the viewer become informed on the user. I like using company branding and style guides out of respect. I also believe that it will help visually legitimize the findings to management. It conveys “this isn’t just users, this is us as a company”. I hope this post was helpful in providing an overview of personas, some tips, and possible issues. Below the images of my personas is a curated list of references, please visit these expert resources on personas, there is much more of the practice to ponder.
Resources & References
Cascade SF, An Experience Design Organization. (2019, September 22). Retrieved from https://www.cascadesf.com
Alan Cooper – Wikipedia. (2019, September 20). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Cooper
Understanding Personas – An Interview with Alan Cooper. (2019, September 22). Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7ljzXB40hw
A Closer Look At Personas: What They Are And How They Work | 1 — Smashing Magazine. (2014, August 06). Retrieved from https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/08/a-closer-look-at-personas-part-1
Personas – The Beginner’s Guide – The UX Review. (2013, March 22). Retrieved from https://theuxreview.co.uk/personas-the-beginners-guide
Personas: The Foundation of a Great User Experience | UX Magazine. (2019, September 18). Retrieved from http://uxmag.com/articles/personas-the-foundation-of-a-great-user-experience
MeasuringU: 7 Core Ideas about Personas and The User Experience. (2019, September 18). Retrieved from https://measuringu.com/personas-ux
Affairs, A. S. f. P. (2013). Personas. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/personas.html
Ralph, B. (2018). Creating Personas. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/beakerandflint/personas-74c4e1c12ee2
Putting personas under the microscope. (2009, June 25). Retrieved from https://www.cooper.com/journal/2009/06/measuring_the_effectiveness_of
The Personas’ New Clothes: Methodological and Practical Arguments against a Popular Method
Christopher N. Chapman, Russell P. Milham
Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Washington
Casserly, M. (2019, September 16). Which is the more popular platform: iPhone or Android? Retrieved from https://www.macworld.co.uk/feature/iphone/iphone-vs-android-market-share-3691861
Why persona is said to be archetype and not stereotype? (2019, September 22). Retrieved from https://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/40450/why-persona-is-said-to-be-archetype-and-not-stereotype
Determining market research sample size | Hardwick Research. (2019, September 22). Retrieved from http://www.hardwickresearch.com/resources/determining-sample-size
Demographics & Lifestyle Analysis. (2019, September 21). Retrieved from https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/downtown-market-analysis/understanding-the-market/demographics-and-lifestyle-analysis
Krebs, A. (2018). 5 Reasons Why Demographic Targeting Is Out and Behavioral Targeting Is In for 2018. Adweek. Retrieved from https://www.adweek.com/digital/annalea-krebs-social-nature-guest-post-5-reasons-why-demographic-targeting-is-out-and-behavioral-targeting-is-in-for-2018
Press, T. A. (2011). AT&T Shifts Focus to Android Phones. N. Y. Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/technology/28phone.html
AT&T Business Unlimited Mobile Rate Plan. (2019, September 21). Retrieved from https://www.business.att.com/products/unlimited-mobile-rate-plan.html
AT&T Wireless Plans. (2019, September 20). Retrieved from https://www.att.com/plans/wireless.html
Michaels, P. (2019). Best Cellphone Plans 2019. Tom’s Guide. Retrieved from https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-phone-plans,review-2953-2.html
Floral Design References
CollegeGrad. (2019, September 21). Retrieved from https://collegegrad.com/careers/floral-designers
What Is the Job Description of a Flower Shop Manager? (2019, September 21). Retrieved from https://careertrend.com/list-6455511-shop-manager-duties.html
“Claire” profile photo by malcolm garret from Pexels “Woman Standing Beside White Wall” 3/2019
Recent Posts from the Graduate Series:
- The Shenandoah Valley Report – Content Strategy Final Project - Module 7 - Content Strategy with Professor Phillip Simon Delivering on an RFP. In this post, I am sharing my…
- STOP LYING: Ethics and Enablers. - Module 4 - Content Strategy with Professor Phillip Simon Should “enablers”, those who conceive, perpetuate and expedite unethical communications, lies,…
- Broad Strokes for Belfast – Content Strategy - Module 3 - Content Strategy with Professor Phillip Simon Determining A Strategy This week we produced a content analysis to…
- Performing A Content Audit & Analysis - Module 2, Part 1 - Content Strategy with Professor Phillip Simon Really Getting to Know Your Client This week we…
- Clearing Up Content Concepts - Module 2, Part 2 - Content Strategy with Professor Phillip Simon This week, we are going to take a moment…
- My personal relationship with content - Module 1, Part 3 - Content Strategy with Professor Phillip Simon Two-Fold After giving my own relationship with content some…