Any idea how to force interaction designers to truly use personas and not just design based on assumptions or "hidden personas"? My company runs into this problem quite often. We conduct user research and create powerful personas but out designers are not really leveraging them. We need to come up with a formal methodolgy or process in which we can enforce persona usage into our design process. Any suggesstions on how we can accomplish this without coming off to strict?
If you have a split in the user researchers and interaction designers, and the user researchers create a deliverable (personas) and pass it on to their client (interaction designers) then they have done nothing more than pass on a piece of paper to work from - an artifact. Personas should not be an artifact.
And that's where the problem is - you're working in silos.
You can't just pass on a deliverable and expect the next silo in the chain to be happy with that nor can you expect that to be an efficient or productive way of working.
As I mention in my answer to the question on What research methods can I use to create personas?, you need to know how the personas will be used right from the beginning, because how can you design something if you don't know how it's going to be used? And creating personas should be a collaborative experience for everyone to be on board across multiple departments and at multiple levels in the company org chart
Get the interaction designers involved in the process of creating the personas. It doesn't have to be a full time involvement - just get them to feel as though they played a part, had a say, and had opportunities to affect the process.
You'll find then, that you lose the wall between the silos, and people are happier to continue the next phase more smoothly because they have been a part of the journey and have gained knowledge out of taking part in that collaborative journey.
It also helps the subsequent interpretation and use of the personas because the designers have been involved and understand a bit about the evidence behind the personas.
Having created personas, don't pass them on and leave it at that. Be there to help the transition to the next phase. Get all those involved to know and understand the personas. Give the personas a name. Make it personal. (See Don't let Bob die ). Do a little Bathroom UX - stick the personas on the back of the bathroom door for everyone to spend a moment getting to know them.
Take a look at your workflow process through UX eyes.
Oh - and lose concepts like enforcement right now.
You're approaching this the wrong way. If you want people to use a tool or a methodology, you have two real options.
I suggest going for option 2 as much as possible, regardless of the topic. The difficulty with option 2 is that it puts the onus on you to show why your way is better.
For personas, you need to show your team how designing to the personas results in a better overall design and helps them achieve a better result faster. There are many ways of doing this, but I believe that the most effective is to look at design failures and show how they could have been avoided by designing to a persona (assuming of course that the persona is an accurate representation in the first place). I also like to use the personas as the methodology for assessing the design by asking questions from the perspective of a particular persona.
You may need to involve the interaction designers earlier in the process. Ideally, they should be involved at the beginning of the project, and should have a hand in the creation of personas. It's possible your interaction designers think your process of creating personas is flawed, or they may think they've become involved too late in the process to use them effectively. Involving them at an earlier stage will bring better results.
One of the possible ways is to develop and conduct user testing session, where will no real users but the personas instead. Testing scenarios should be closely tied to your personas tasks including personas' context. Call it persona testing instead of user testing.
This way not only cheap testing but could be convinced for designers if in persona testing some persona-related errors will be found. You could also combine persona testing and heuristic evaluation as both of them don't require real users.