I wonder how many UX designers user Personas to create design.
closed as not constructive by Rahul Jan 26 '12 at 13:42
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I use personas; they're a great way of keeping the user in the room whenever design decisions are being made.
However, there's a risk, especially if ux thinking and practice is spreading beyond the confines of my own desk (a good thing). The risk is that others may not realise that a persona is simply a way of presenting user research. The persona lives and dies by the quality of that research. There is sometimes a temptation for a project team to simply 'invent' a persona, based on nothing but their own ideas about who the users are likely to be. Once constructed, a convincing (though factually empty) persona can be difficult to kill off.
Also, I've seen personas created as a design deliverable, and then forgotten about. The act of creating the persona is not where the value lies - remember that the persona itself is just a form of report on user research. It's value is in its constant use through the project lifecycle, the repeated question, 'would Simon like this?', 'would Sarah understand that?' It's a means of injecting the results of user research into the heart of the design and development process.
A good, well-researched understanding of the people you're designing for is important to guide design decisions and then later on provide as the rationale for your design when (inevitably) questioned. The effort you go to to develop qualitative and quantitative datasets that you develop your personas from can vary depending on how important they are to the design process, how much time you have, how much room there is to customise the solution based on personas (there may be an very strict design already imposed) and other requirements and constraints.
I find personas work wonders if you have all the information about the target audience and the expected user base. I was asked to do some persona testing the other day and while I succeeding in delivering something quite basic based on perceived journeys, I ran the risk of making my personas stereotypes which leastens the value of the excercise. But hand in hand with knowledge about the users this is a much cheaper way of getting real value out of testing without making use of labs or remote testing.
I'm trying to drive our organisation towards using them more than we have done in the past. I think it's vital to design for an audience and the more detail who have about that audience, or the more specific you can make it, the more you'll be able to tailor the experience.
There are obviously times where it is less appropriate than others, but most applications we develop have a business purpose and thus multiple levels of business users. Their needs/expectations/role needs to be right at the top of our considerations when it comes to how the application will operate.