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I'm working on an app that is designed to help people with unwanted habits to addictions. I'm trying to determine how many personas would be appropriate for this app. I don't believe it warrants a persona for each unwanted habit/addiction because they all have similar needs or wants (quit smoking, drinking, etc) that would cover 80% of the use cases. The other two options I've come up with are 1.) based on the severity or impact on their lives (severe, moderate, or low impact), 2.) mental readiness to quit (ready, considering, thinking).

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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In the design thinking process, creating personas is stage 2 of the process. Stage 1 is research. From your question, it appears you don't yet have all the answers you need. Right now you have a quite nebulous "a smoker going through 3 packs a day who is ready to quit" concept which isn't really a persona yet. Instead, a persona looks more like this:

Dave, 34, smoker. Recently got a wakeup call because his buddy James got diagnosed with lung cancer, used to go through 2 pack a day and since then halved it. Failed quitting 4x already, twice in his teens, once in his mid-twenties (which went well until he met with one of his high school smoking buddies), and just again last month. Married, 2 children, feels somewhat guilty about being a bad dad because he goes to the garage to smoke quite often instead of playing with them. Financially stable but somewhat constrained, quitting would enable other luxuries. Wants to do...

And so on and so forth. Each of the facts about the persona are based on your research, and your design very directly addresses the wants and needs of this persona. In above example it could be:

  • "buddy got cancer" -> "I am scared of dying early" -> A motivational "you added xyz days back to your life by not smoking today" may make sense in the design
  • "bad dad" and "financially constrained" -> Add a money tracker of how much money was saved, and how much of a % this is towards a holiday with the kids to Spain.

The number of personas you need then depends on how many people you want to (and realistically: can) serve with your design. Designs which work for Dave will likely not work for Jessie, celebrity, who wants to quit alcohol because it messes with her figure.

It's generally a good idea to have one main persona which corresponds with the largest audience you're targeting, and then a handful of side-personas which correspond to smaller, but still relevant audiences. Dave may be a persona to target, Jessie likely isn't.

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I would just add to Leo Wattenberg's excellent response that one also needs to define what kind of addictions we are talking about. While the concept of addiction is fairly clear, the manifestations (and thus the approaches) vary widely depending on the individual case.

ie: One thing is a tobacco addict, another a drug addict, another a gaming addict, another a work addict, another a sex addict. All of the above addictions are destructive in one way or another, but the stigma and connotations are quite different (not to mention the therapeutic approach), and all will likely have very different goals or reasons for wanting (or not wanting) to leave their addiction.

I think you should work with a certified specialist (MD or psychologist) first and foremost in order to both get more info as well as to create personas or whatever you need.

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I should add that research means just that: research. Find friends, friends of friends, people you know or people you don't know who are struggling with addiction and talk to them. That will help you write a scenario like the one Leo Wattemberg graciously shared with a trove of details. Collect a few. From there you could start seeing patterns, building personas and see if one is needed for each type of addiction or if, even though addictions types and levels are different, the healing process can somehow be mainstreamed or if it requires a more granular approach. There is a reason it is called research.

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  • Thanks Philippe
    – bAabel
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 12:59

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