I think the distinction is important otherwise we're not leveraging the full potential of each method and how it fits into the overall research and design process. I agree with nearly all the great definitions that have been written, but I would add where and how they fit in with the business or product strategy.
It's also worth introducing Customer Segmentation. I normally start with customer segmentation to create a segmentation model, then move on to finding archetypal themes taken from customer interviews focussing on the why then create personas to be more specific and inspirational so teams can build more delightful solutions.
I don't think it matters what template people use but I do believe they need to be measurable and continue to evolve. Archetypes for me are tied to strategic OKRs and personas are tied to tactical OKRs. Each one providing a set of KPIs that can be measured, the data helping improve the understanding of the archetypal user behaviour and the specific motivations contained within the personas.
Some market research teams will often produce a segmentation model to assist in creating targeted messaging and campaigns to customers. The segmentation can be defined a number of ways:
- Demographic properties like age, income, and geographic location.
- Behavioural indicating the amount of engagement, from low to high.
- Attitudinal for things like category interest, (such as the Airbnb example; experiences or stays). Often, these segments will get names inside the organisation, similar to generational names like Millenials, Generation X, and Perennials.
I also follow Carl Gustav Jung's definition which has since been expanded by various different experts to apply it within the software/product world.
Archetypes can be produced from a user research study, with as few as 8 to as many as 24 customers. As the researcher interviews participants and explores why they do what they do, themes begin to emerge. Eventually, these patterns can be consolidated into archetypes. One person may be looking for bargains because they need to keep as much income as they can for essentials. Another person looks for bargains because it’s fun and feels good to find a deal. Same behaviour, different motivations, two customer archetypes.
After your organisation has validated and thoroughly understands the market opportunity (Segmentation), synthesised the thematic motivations of the customers (Archetypes), you’ve got everything you need to explore the problem space for your customer. As you begin ideation and design, a persona helps this archetype come to life. A persona includes a photo, name, job title, description of their living situation, and a few examples of behaviour that is driven by their motivations from the archetype. (Definition taken from here)
I think there are two main uses of personas depending on your goal for using them (example given here):
- User Persona: I see these are the product end-users
- Customer Persona (also known as a 'buyer persona'): this normally isn't the person using your product but might be an influencer who buys your product or service
I always like this example: who’s the customer for a children’s book? Is it the child reading the book or the parent?
I also think you can categorise personas into three different types (taken from here):
Lightweight Personas: Example is a Proto persona, designed to quickly align the team’s existing assumptions about who their users are, but not based on (new) research
Qualitative Personas: Based on small-sample qualitative research, such as interviews, usability tests, or field studies.
Statistical Personas: where initial qualitative research informs a survey instrument that is used to gather a large sample size and the personas emerge from statistical analysis.
There are also four different perspectives on personas, which are also helpful to understand (taken from here)
Goal-Directed Persona: The objective of a goal-directed persona is to examine the process and workflow that your user would prefer to utilise in order to achieve their objectives in interacting with your product or service
Role-Based Persona: The role-based perspective is also goal-directed and it also focusses on behaviour. The personas of the role-based perspectives are massively data-driven and incorporate data from both qualitative and quantitative sources. The role-based perspective focusses on the user’s role in the organisation.
THE SCIENCE OF PERSONAS
Initially, there has been some scepticism about whether personas work, simply because there's no way of truly validating whether the defined persona represent the user base.
The most comprehensive work to date on personas (Pruitt and Adlin, 2006) is a compiled book advocating the method. You can read more about this here.
The only research I've managed to find that tries to validate personas as a method is this one found here, which validates teams that don't use them versus teams that do. Quite reassuringly the research shows the teams that do use them, actually design more intuitive and delightful products.
Read more about the research here