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Edit : I've added a little more detail to the main question here.

There are many techniques and practices at our disposal to gain an understanding of the target audiences motivations and needs when using a website or application. These can of course be carried out face to face, remotely or even undercover but all need to be done.

In your experience how long does it take for you to

  1. Get a reasonable amount of information to base personas and scenarios upon?

Edit : how many interviews from the same demographic or target group would be recommended to base one persona or scenario upon?

Document the findings into deliverables suitable for client use?

How receptive are clients if the effort required is more than they expect?

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It's really impossible to answer this with such a generic scenario. Projects can range from 10 hour to 10000 hours. There are just too many factors that go into each and every job to make blanket statements. –  DA01 May 16 '11 at 14:37
    
I'm prone to agree with DA01 here; it's hard to answer this question because I'm not sure why you're asking it. If you could add some background or an example, it might help. –  Rahul May 16 '11 at 14:52

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

There's no fixed number or amount of time. The goal of personas is to create a model of people in your demographic so that your team and client can focus on, communicate about, and refer back to this representation when making decisions. Ultimately, personas are an aspect of a process called mental modeling. The goal of mental modeling is to understand your users' motivations and contextual decision-making process so you can create interfaces and experiences that match their expectations, and, as a consequence, effectively solve their problems.

The book Mental Models by Indi Young is a good starting point to learn about mental models and will help you determine how "much" is enough to obtain a coherent understanding of your target audience to the extent that your desired model (eg. personas) matches them closely enough that you have "a reasonable amount of information to base scenarios upon".

Related reading you may find useful (if you're a software developer): Domain-Driven Design by Eric Evans which focuses on creating a model of the business goals by attempting to understand the "domain" you're designing for. See more at the Wikipedia page on domain-driven design.

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Thanks Rahul, I've read Mental Models by Indi Young will have to re read it to recover the optimal number of interviewees - I remember advice as to when to best stop an interview and calling time when participants start to cover shared ground. I suppose its a case of using as much time as you have available when determining the most suitable sample size . The second book is on my reading list! –  Adam Fellowes May 18 '11 at 10:08

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