Question in short
When writing personas, do I: 1. Describe them in their current situation using whatever tool they may be using, or with no tool 2. Describe them using the tool that I am developing, ie a future tool, not one they are actually using yet
My basic understanding of persona
Correct me if I am wrong. Personas are a tool to be used before the design process, though I guess they can be revised at any point later in the process. When having the personas in place one can start designing for them, or at least by referencing to them in some way.
My example case
While my question is a general one, I will provide my example so that it is hopefully easier for you to understand my question. I want to design a product, an interface, for managing the heating system in a house. It will be a panel hanging on the wall, with various features like 1) raising the temperature for a few hours and then return to default, 2) set automatic down adjustment of temperature during the night, 3) display energy usage and expenses for a chosen period of time.
I have written my personas as narratives based on what I envision. That is:
- Anne comes home from work bicycling and feels very cold. She's had a long day, and now she wants to lie on the sofa for an hour until the rest of the family comes home. But the livingroom is cold, so on her way to the sofa she presses the '1hr boost' button, before she lies down.
- Paul thinks his wife uses the boost button too often, and he thinks his daughters forget to turn off the heating before opening the windows. Now and then, when he is confronted with what he considers money wasting behavior, he goes to the panel and checks the energy usage. He browses back and forward through the days and gets an overview. He sees that in the weekend they used extraordinarily much energy, while the teenagers were away.
Now, I like these personas. They make sense for me, they are believable and I can imagine these scenarios very well. They help me understand the user, and imagine the product I want to build. BUT, they are written while I already have an imagined end product, and the persona narratives describe how the users interact with my imagined product.
Writing personas based on their lives without my end product is not very helpful
So let's say that I actually want to do the personas about their lives without the panel. The problem is, that there will not be any options for 'boost' nor for reading energy consumption. In fact, most people no matter their technical skills, will adjust radiators the exact same way. I know some countries have these central panels for electric radiators, but in my country everybody has hot water radiators which can only be regulated by a temperature adjusting valve on each radiator.
Summary of question
Is it ok, or is it unadvisable, to use personas the way I do, instead of using them to describe the personas before introducing the new product.
Are there any best practices regarding such a dilemma, any helpful experiences, or any literature (blogs, papers, tutorials) on this?