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After describing personas at the beginning of the UX project, how do you design with all of them in mind?? What if two personas don't see eye to eye culturally or philosophically, how does design manage to go past this?

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There are so many ways that personas are used as part of the design process, depending on the amount of research you have conducted. Instead of listing them all, here are some ideas to help you think how you can best apply the insights for your own projects:

  • Pain points & frustrations - if you have uncovered this in the research, they will then point to the problems you can be potentially trying to solve for the users.
  • What makes them happy - always a good starting point to figuring out the needs and wants of the users, and the type of experiences you should be aiming for.
  • Demographic information - puts the user group in context in terms of their preferences, habits, knowledge of technology and other information that you will find useful in creating user flows and interaction designs.
  • Scenarios - gives you a feel for either a day in their life or the specific problems that they face, and can be a good starting point to investigate and create a user journey map or user stories. Might also give some insights into the mental model of the user for specific tasks.
  • Goals and tasks - translates into user flows and can be used to develop detailed interactions by breaking the tasks down into specific interactions with the user interface.
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I get passionate about this, so if you want to go straight to the answer you're better off reading III. Process below.

I. Preamble

  • We're always building for a persona type, whether that's yourself, somebody else or a group of people. (In

  • When we design, we're trying to systematize a solution to a problem.

  • Therefore personas SHOULD inform and influence design.

  • Making personas explicit (and documenting them) helps making the concept of user concrete rather than elastic.

  • Personas will increase your team's empathy levels if used properly.

II. Background

First of all we need to acknowledge that there are two kinds of personas.

  1. Research Based Personas

    Research based personas are the personas that have been statistically defined to tell the truth about a segment of your user base.

  2. Assumption Personas

    Personas that have been created without any sort of validation and live without it.

The pros and cons of each persona type could start a discussion, that is likely to end nowhere, as they are different kind of tool, that could be used during different stages of different processes. The way I see it (and going against what's been said before is that) you should use both, but that's just my personal opinion.

Take into consideration the chart below.

A Chart about Personas Maturity in Time

At the beginning you can work with assumption personas, and start defining what you believe to be truth about them. During this stage, of course you and your team will acknowledge the fact that these are all assumptions and that you'll need to fix them as you learn more about them (more or less what you do when you meet new friends and start setting expectations about them).

Once you have enough to perform some actual research, you will basically set in stone what you know about them (which again, in my opinion is sub-ideal, as the cost of research is substantially more than that from assumptions - Hopefully you'll keep learning about your personas after research though).

III. Process (and the actual answer)

After I. and II. it could be inferred that personas will make you step aside from the spotlight and stop you and your team from designing for yourselves. And if so, when? and how?.

The best answer I could give you is it depends, as it's strictly associated with the way you do things. But paying attention to point number 3 of the preamble, personas should inform and influence design it would be silly just to define them and not to use them at all.

Start with the right foot

The trick to creating good personas is to honestly curious about them and learning 3 things:

  • Context
  • Pain Points or Frustrations
  • Goals or objectives

Context. Getting this right will set the path for nailing the other two. Context is everything that lacks intent in a statement, for example: from Age and Tech Savvyness to working conditions (like direct sunlight or office, standing or sitting, and typical time of the day to use a product that you're designing). Context sets the stage and is the key to unveiling Pain Points and Goals.

This is where things get better:

Pain Points or Frustrations. Here you'll learn about what stops your personas from feeling better doing more things faster today. Pure gold if you want to design a product based on what currently exists.

Goals or Objectives. Actual objectives they have today, and look for aspirational stuff that might trigger yours or your team's imagination.

Ok, ok... I got too far, you're still reading and we don't have an answer yet... so here it comes.

Put your personas to good use

If you're doing it right, so far you have a list of pain points and goals. The way I do it is that I map them in the right spot along my personas workflow.

User Story Mapping with Pain Points and Goals

Another way of using personas is to help prioritise the features that you build. You can use Dotmocracy or another facilitation tool to assign value to each of the pain points and goals that you've defined. By doing this features that you product or service has, could be aligned to those Pain Points and Goals to help you build the most pressing features faster.

An example

I'm yet to refine this, but I did this as a way to explain to my friends what my own personal process looked like, and it might give you an example on how to use personas and make them valuable:

This is Edgarator's process

Step number 3 in the image above includes the definition, validation and prioritisation of personas during my discovery process.

Testing

Design should be tested by people that match your persona's criteria. (I almost miss this one).

IV. Conclusion

Where you use personas and how you use them depends entirely on your process. So be creative and try as much as possible to come back to them and include them.

Specifically in my process I use them during step 3, 4 and 6 and thereafter is essentially imposible to exclude them due to the value they provide.

I hope this helps a bit.

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If 2 personas are right handed and 2 are left handed?

Center the menu button.

If 2 personas see red as danger and 2 see red as good luck?

Use Grey for negative and green for positive

Did you produce the personas yourself? If yes then you are already on the road to failure. When you produced your personas you already knew what product they where being manufactored for and have taylored your personas to that end.

If you where handed your personas from a third party, then produce a design that covers the every basic need of all personas. Only human interaction and insights together with the results of testing will define the need for change. As a UX designer you should naturally see a user path and be able to avoid problems. Until software allows a persona to test a product, they will always be assumptions rather than fact.

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