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I am currently working on a project where I have to design the administration panel of a new application. I have some questions about creating personas in that project. I read often about not segmenting users by roles, but what would be the best way to create personas for my specific project?

Project: We have different kind of users for the app. In daily life, they could work at our company, at another company or they could be students. Inside the application back-end they can have different roles: * an administrator (can make high level changes to the application), * a moderator (they can add and edit items) * a contributor (they can only see items and add new ones)

Question: When creating personas I don't know how to segment them. I can create generic personas, not segmented by role, but age for example. But that doesn't really help my research I guess. Would it be a better idea to have a different persona for the administrator, the moderator and contributor? But now I segment them by role. Is that bad practice?

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    You pretty much answered our own question. If you create something that doesn't help with what you want to do, then what is the purpose? Basically, you want to capture information about the shared and unique requirements that the app needs to cater for, and the best practice is to document and highlight this information. A persona is simply a type of format, not a rule about what you have to do. – Michael Lai Apr 3 '17 at 20:35
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When creating personas, "why" is the crucial question. Rather than slicing the whole Users population, you should therefore find those who represent a prominent set of strategically important characteristics.

Here is how. The whole population of Users consists of people representing various characteristics. Each of the characteristics can be strong or weak, common or uncommon.

In general, a characteristic becomes important when it is quite common in the whole population, not when it is very strong. For example, in some cases your persona may be a regular, everyday normal guy, for whom most of the characteristics are not at all extreme (average income, average age and so on), but still, this set of characteristics is popular. Or, if you are creating an app for e.g. extreme introverts, between your Users this extreme characteristic would become common.

However, the common nature of some characteristic is not the only one that makes it important. Some Users may be more valuable from the strategic standpoint, which usually means that they are important for Business.

This strategic importance can be defined in various ways: they can be elderly people, people living in Minnesota, administrators of the system you create. In other words, if Business speaks "administrators should be able to..." very often, this means that you probably should create a persona or two within this group, depending on what characteristics groups you find within this kind of group. You may decide to further divide them by gender, age, place they live, whichever has a strategic importance.

At the same time, you may have another persona, who is defined by another characteristic, but not related to their role, e.g. women at their 30s.

To give you an example, if you create a holiday service, allowing people to go to various places around the world, some personas to consider might be:

  • Joe, a system administrator because there are a lot of them performing some actions in the system,
  • Jane, a part time community administrator because there is another form of cooperation between them and the company,
  • Josephine, a 46 y.o. woman with medium to high monthly income, because she is the person who will build up the word of mouth, being an ambassador of your services,
  • Marco, a 26 y.o. guy, because he will represent the group making the most of the traffic,
  • Lena, a 42 y.o. home owner in Hawaii, because this destination brings the highest income for the company.

And so on.

As you can see, some of them relate to specific roles in the system – something that is quite obvious for administrators, where age, gender etc. may be just additional features to make the persona feel a real person.

In other cases, they may represent only a part of the population within a role, but a part that is important for Business. For example some home owners, living in a specific region and building up the most interest in your services may have some preferences that would not be the same for those in other parts of the world. At the same time the addressees of their home rental services may be a subject of interest of the group that Marco comes from, the one who makes the most of the site traffic.

So, as a wrap up I would say that deciding which personas to create should depend on what is important from the Business (strategy) point of view rather than splitting Users population in some parts.

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You can have as many personas as you want - although, the more you have the more difficult they are to manage.

The point of a persona is to represent a key user type - If you have several key user types then you need several personas. They can be segmented in any way that is relevant to the product/system you're dealing with. You can build personas by talking to users and stakeholders. Once you have your personas, you can use them to determine the needs for each user type - from that you can start building a picture of the user needs for each persona - once you have their needs you can prioritise them and see where they overlap or separate - and that's where they become useful.

This slide deck has some workshop ideas for creating and developing personas (slides 5-9).

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