I'm just running through an agency proposal and the misuse of personas has reared its ugly head again. I'm finding this is now a frequently reoccurring theme and so I thought I'd raise it as a question here on UX.
There appears to be a tendency to assume that the creation of personas is inherently user centered design. I see people creating a variety of personas, ranging from very data driven complex models, to simple clearly defined segments. So what's so wrong with this approach? Well, the UX practitioner then appears to try to design the interaction from the perspective of a particular persona.
I fail to see how this is UCD when it is in fact PCD (practitioner centred design). Whilst the practitioner can try to be objective, or subjective from a 3rd party persona view, how much can the actually assume of that perspective? And isn't it a direct result of programmers making interaction design decisions that brought us to UCD in the first place...so how is this any different? The lunatics are still running the asylum - they're just hiding behind personas.
My reason for this mini rant is that I'm really failing to see the value of personas when they appear to revert UCD back to TCD, and bringing designer subjectivity to the fore. I do understand that they have some value (e.g. accessibility for older users) but it appears that the whole usage of personas has been extrapolated beyond original intent and actually in practice are anti-UCD.
Am I way off base here? It has really got under my skin and is one of those issues that is almost keeping me up at night.
Here's an Excellent article by Steve Portigal in Interactions, from the question Does anyone have guidence as to when to use data driven personas and when to make them up? Directly relevant to this thread, and I'm going to vote Portigal for President:
To make a crude comparison, guns don’t kill people, but they make it a lot easier. And personas aren’t solely responsible for bad design or solely to blame for the disconnect between designers and their customers, but they make bad design a hell of a lot easier. To compound the problem, personas enable all of this under a cloak of smug customer-centricity, while instilling bemused contempt.