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Are there examples of personas that are designed specifically to cater for users whose traits and behaviours are expected to evolve over time as opposed to being static?

One scenario that I can think of would be if a series of personas are created and grouped by the length of time that they have used the software or worked at an organisation. In this case, I would expect that over time these personas will either:

  • Stay the same because behaviour is primarily dictated by the length of time OR
  • Evolve because the traits and behaviour change over time and are dependent on other factors that are less sensitive to the length of time

For example, given three personas:

  • Persona A who is new to the company
  • Persona B who has worked for 3 years
  • Persona C who has worked for 10 years

Let's say that the company is now looking at future state for their products and services, you might assume that all three personas are valid because the change in time of how long they have worked in the organisation doesn't really change their behaviour in significant ways, or that you might potentially have persona A1, B1 and C1 that are variations to the original persona that have changed over time, plus the original personas that are still valid.

Has anyone seen examples of personas developed that cater for this change over time as opposed to the more conventional personas that are static or a point-in-time snapshot?

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  • Aren't you overthinking the idea of persona's? Users evolve over time not persona's, persona's are static. For every stage a user becomes a different kind of user you create a new persona. Or am I missing something here?
    – jazZRo
    Mar 16 at 9:25
  • @jazZRo Logically for every stage a user becomes a different user you would create a new persona. However, it is also possible that this new persona is the same as an existing persona that already exists. So I am wondering if there are examples of this and how the relationships between these different personas are defined and mapped.
    – Michael Lai
    Mar 16 at 22:27

2 Answers 2

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Personas in my opinion are always evolving. But in your scenario you describe the process of persona A becoming persona B. Since your research must have shown some differences between the time they used the software – otherwise you would not have created three personas.

What I want to say: If the differences between longe time users ans short time users is so significant to create multiple personas, this might be the same in the future but as said a person becomes represented by another persona over time.

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  • What I am suggesting is that Persona A could either become Persona A1 or Persona B depending on how the behaviours evolve or don't evolve over time. But I don't normally see design teams take this into account in their persona creation (when they develop multiple personas) so I am wondering if there are examples.
    – Michael Lai
    Mar 15 at 22:52
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I don't have examples but I do have persona experience.

Based on what you've provided, if your personas are based on user motivations, behaviors, and needs, using separate personas is valid, even when applied to the same people over time.

22-year-old Dave the Junior Engineer might be motivated by acceptance and learning opportunities. He might need mentoring and pairing.

27-year-old Vijay the Mid-Level Engineer might be motivated by working on prestigious projects. He might need more more challenging work and visibility to senior management.

35-year-old Kat the Staff Engineer might be motivated by compensation and the opportunity to coach junior employees. She might need retention bonuses and coaching on how to manage a team.

Dave, Vijay, and Kat could all be the same person at different points in their career, but keeping them as different personas will allow you to go deeper into what each one needs and expects at certain points. It also breaks them away from being shoehorned into a certain backstory, which might or might not fit.

If you are finding that long-timers have different motivations and needs than people who switch up their careers every few years - then that's a different persona, too, right? They might be motivated by stability or loyalty to the institution and need to feel connection and appreciation. Maybe call that person Carl. Carl and Kat might both be 35-year-old engineers, and significantly different in how they need their employee experience to be.

I'd say focus on the motivations, behaviors and needs vs. trying to map them to journeys at this stage.

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