Words by Megan HowellJune 19, 2018
Personas are the representation of real people that are used to influence the features and functionality of a project. As a designer, you need to remember you are not the user. You don’t know how every user will interact with an interface and because of this, personas play an important role in the development of user-centric designs.
Although the name and demographic information are made up to allow a persona to feel real, the persona needs to built upon real information gathered from the discovery phase of a project. Great ways to gain invaluable information for personas are during workshops and user testing, this enables the persona to reflect a true representation of a particular group of users.
In order to design a successful website, product or service, you need to understand the people who are going to be using it.
What are their needs? What are they looking for? And how can we help them reach their goals in the most user-friendly way?
Asking these questions allows you to draw out user needs, and design a product or service that will meet and exceed users’ needs and expectations.
To capture appropriate audience types, we create in the region of 3-6 personas per project, depending on its complexity. 3-6 is an ideal range; too many and you will start to lose understanding of which user you are designing for, and too few, you risk losing the representation of the typical users of the project.
Workshops are a great place to gather as much data as possible, and are usually where the most valuable data that informs a project comes from. By facilitating a workshop, you allow the user to have a voice, and personas are a continuation of this. Once a workshop has finished it is possible for the user’s voice to become dampened, as they are not there to tell you how they feel, what they need and how they would benefit from ‘x’ feature during each stage of the project. It is your job as a designer to create personas based upon the information they have given you and to be the person that carries their voice throughout the project.
Personas are a depository for all of the data collected in a project which are used as influence or reference during the project lifecycle. Without them, you will be trying to design for every possible user meaning your objectives could become unfocused and lead to an ineffective outcome. Similarly, you may not have a profile of specifics to delve into to understand why you are designing the way that you are.
Personas should evoke empathy between the reader and the persona. They are an easy way to gain an understanding of goals for a project as a team, whilst uncovering user needs. They should be used to aid design decision-making problems that can be referred back to at any stage in the project. By doing this, it can also help team members not get stuck thinking about themselves during the project, and allows everyone to have a clearer decision-making process that is focused around the user and their needs. At the end of a project, you can check the personas next to the design and be able to have a clear picture of whether what you have delivered was designed by the user.
When making a design decision your personas are the most important person in the room.
Every project has a stage where decisions need to be made and there is not a clear outcome; this is the perfect time to refer back to the personas. Remember you are not the user, and as a designer, it’s your duty to speak for those users to make sure their needs are heard. I always ask myself, ‘What would this persona want and enjoy most?’, and make a decision based upon that.
Personas are such a valuable tool that it should be a part of every project to make your personas the best they can be and share them with your team. Remember you are designing for a reason and each reason has a meaning to the user. Make sure you are delivering your project knowing that you have made a someone’s experience online enjoyable.