Personas are often criticized and misunderstood as being too superficial. Well, “any tool can be used for good or evil, and personas are no different”, as Interaction Designer and User Researcher at Hearsay Social, Shlomo Goltz, points out in Smashing Magazine A persona built on qualitative user research is an extremely powerful tool to guide your team through all steps of human-centered design and to create a meaningful user experience for the customer.
Your persona is not your imaginary friend
Let’s get this straight: A persona is not a marketing representation of a theoretical customer; nor is it the customer of your dreams. A persona is a frame to illustrate and communicate the main user research insights. It is not a real individual, but a realistic fiction, based on the synthesized observation.
How can your project benefit from that? Personas help the project team to create empathy within the users’ needs and behavior. Empathy guides the team towards recognizing users’ main problems and the opportunities offered by your products and services. Actually, personas have a multi-purpose commitment and are also used for:
- Making, defending and testing features for your product or service.
- Communicating within external parties and stakeholders.
- Creating a communication strategy
- Helping to prioritize next steps
Last but not least, personas force you to reach out to a specific target group rather than create solution for “everybody”.
Opinions about personas are quite diverse. Like any instrument, a persona can lead to positive results or to breakdown. Active and realistic personas always result from good user research and this is about observing, understanding and evaluating human behavior.