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Do you need to create a user persona for a personal project that you are going to add on your portfolio? I ask because if you do create a user persona, it will basically be invented and assuming since there is no real client involved.

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Yes. Persona development should be part of your design legwork, included as part of your research (even if you are your own client), and part of your thought process. This will help you showcase your work to potential employers as part of your portfolio, which is especially important if the analysis you did ended up somewhere, like in a series of low- or high-fidelity prototypes.

You won't regret it. And it's not as trivial as it seems, so I would also encourage you to talk to people about your ideas and see if they can identify more personas or at the very least, they will help you focus.

Personas provide a basis for design discussions by concentrating many pieces of user data into key, focused, believable descriptions of your primary audience, [which means that] product development takes those personas' needs into account.

By creating an explicit persona you make the concept of the user, concrete rather than elastic.


Source: UX Design Techniques: Overview with Chris Nodder

  • Thanks for the answer. How many different personas should i be making? Also can i make them in something like Photoshop or is it better elsewhere? – ralph Feb 6 '15 at 2:47
  • It depends on your project. Adding personas to it will increase the complexity of the project, so start with one or two, and stick to them for a little while. Remember that you need to get your personas to have a story, general information, pain-points, goals, etc. When you read this, it needs to make sense. If the pain-points and goals overlap between personas, then maybe you need to merge those personas into one. If the pain-points and goals are too different to make a story consistent, then you need to split that persona... makes sense? – edgarator Feb 6 '15 at 2:57
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Do you need to create a user persona for a personal project that you are going to add on your portfolio?

I would say "yes". Because persona are useful in understanding your customer well and so ending up with a good product, whether the project is personal or not.

Wearing my interview hat seeing somebody talk about things like persona in their portfolio would be relevant and useful.

But…

I ask because if you do create a user persona, it will basically be invented and assuming since there is no real client involved.

… not if if it will "basically be invented". Because that isn't a persona. Persona are not works of fiction. They're research based.

Because, wearing my interviewer hat, as soon as I see a persona description in a portfolio I'd be asking things like "And how do you create this? When and how did you do the research? How do you analyse it? Who did you talk to? How did you choose what to include/exclude form the persona description? etc.".

If the answer was "I made it up" then I'd be thinking "This person doesn't actually know what persona are…" and the interviewee would be in a vastly worse position than if they'd not been a persona to start with.

Generally fictional persona for fictional projects don't make particularly impressive portfolio pieces in my experience - unless the focus is mostly on the graphic design end of the UX spectrum. Because they almost never have the interesting constraints that make real projects challenging.

  • Personas are not necessarily research based. "Especially at smaller organizations or ones that aren’t fully sold on user research, this can mean that personas won’t be developed, or funded sufficiently. For situations such as these, an alternative type of persona can be valuable: the proto-persona." from: uxmag.com/articles/using-proto-personas-for-executive-alignment – edgarator Feb 6 '15 at 10:12
  • I'm in the 'proto-persona' = a fundamentally different thing from persona cap. Hence the 'proto" :-) Proto/ad-hoc persona are useful for initial alignment. But unless you ground them in actual research they can be positively dangerous in my experience. – adrianh Feb 6 '15 at 11:51
  • Well, might seem like an overkill for a project on the side though... – edgarator Feb 6 '15 at 13:25
  • Well my personal project is going to be about a website that users will be able to shop for sneakers. The goal is for users to be able to shop for sneakers in an online shop so that they don't have to go to a retail store.Convenience is key. I know this can range from young kids to old adults and the majority being in the younger crowd. So in that case i should make 1 or 2 personas? – ralph Feb 6 '15 at 22:55

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