Personas are representations of the goals and behaviours of the hypothesised group of users. They are discussion documents that we use to help us see our work through the eyes of the people we aim to serve — our internal and external stakeholders: customers, suppliers, donors, staff, constituents, citizens etc. They represent archetypical (but importantly not stereotypical) users of the products, systems, and other business processes we are considering in our work.
Providing a “back-story” and giving personas a name and a face helps make our personas feel more real so that we can better empathise with them. The document answers a range of questions such as their motivations, key questions they are looking to answer, attributes that are relevant to what we are defining and other useful contextual information.
The number and types of personas are typically defined around the different behaviours and other attributes we identify, which is often different from traditional demographic segmentation.
In-depth personas are usually created for those stakeholders that are deemed high-priority during early project analysis.
Personas are based on research, however, they may be informed from a variety of sources and can be generated in a number of ways:
• Customer interviews and observational research
• Stakeholder workshops
• Website usage metrics
• User surveys & other feedback
• Demographic information (age, geography, income etc.)
• SEO/keyword analysis • and more…
Once formed, personas support many aspects of our work, from branding and strategy to product development. We continuously refer back to our personas throughout the project lifecycle and evolve them as new learnings or requirements come to light.
It’s worth noting that the discussion that occurs around the creation and refinement of these documents is often as important as what’s actually documented — they are living documents and serve as launch-pads for analysis and discussion, not a “finished product”, set in stone.
Personas are structured around the specific needs of the project — they provide answers to the questions in front of us — and therefore there is no “one size fits all” template.