A persona is a user archetype you can use to help guide decisions about product features, navigation, interactions, and even visual design. By taking the archetype – whose goals and behavior patterns you understand very well – into account, you can satisfy the broader group of people represented by that archetype.
The persona puts a name and a face and a story onto the design solution challenge.
What’s a Persona?
The persona grows out of aggregate market data. We add some with a few fictional (representative) personal details to bring the persona to life. The Persona describes who we’re designing for. Although we may have a primary persona, any well-designed system realistically must accommodate several representative users.
The Persona description includes behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few (very few!) fictional personal details to bring the persona to life.
Not just a Task List
Although tasks are also an important part of understanding users, a good persona description is not a list of tasks or duties; it’s a narrative that describes the *flow* of someone’s day, as well as their skills, attitudes, environment, and goals. A persona answers critical questions that a job description or simple task list doesn’t, such as:
- Which pieces of information are required at what points in the day?
- Do you focus on one thing at a time, carrying it through to completion, or are there a lot of interruptions?
- Why are you using this site in the first place?
What’s the Story?
Stories are an informal, accessible extension on personas and roles. More targeted than a “day in the life” (which tends to be a task-oriented scenario), the story captures the essence of the personal issue and highlights a frustration, a need or a solution.
The story is a memorable, repeatable takeaway.
Goals & Tasks
Each persona should have three or four important goals that help focus the design. Keep in mind that goals and tasks are different:
Tasks are not ends in themselves, but are merely the things we do in order to accomplish goals. Not just any goals will do, though, so it’s important to understand which types will help you make design decisions.
Most persona goals should be end goals that focus on what the persona could get out of using a well-designed product or service. End goals may involve the work product that results from using the tool.
What behaviors govern our likely relationship over the course of the customer journey? We make generalizations as to whether individuals are “activators” or “followers” or “avoiders” because we recognize patterns. These ‘audience segments’ are often identified by Marketing as convenient shorthand when discussing how to engage. Ultimately, much of our interaction design solutions are in response to how we anticipate the behaviors of these segments. It’s strategic.
Here are some of the criteria we used to model personas for a Social Networking site. The attributes focus on understanding Who I am, What I want and How I might use the service.
- a name and picture
- demographics (age, income, education, ethnicity, family status)
- home environment (physical)
- working environment (social)
- relationship to technology
- hobbies, interests, priorities
- goals & motivators
- tasks which might relate to our site
- a personal statement that sums up what matters most to me
- a characterization which helps to identify how I am motivated
Personas can be really helpful. They’re sort of a souped-up version of an Audience Role – an attempt to understand not just what you do, but really get a feeling for who you are – so that we can design appropriately.
The Persona identifies and describes WHO
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