Personas are one of the cornerstones of user-centered design. They represent a group of customers that share goals, objectives, behaviors, motivations, and purchasing patterns. So what? What does that mean? Well, here are a few good things that I’ve seen done with personas:
1) Put your user in the center of your design process
2) Align your team members with a common goal
3) Fend off people with just opinions (that’s basically everyone)
I just read an article that suggests that developing a good set of personas can cost anywhere from $80,000-$120,000.
But Nancy, you say, I’m not made of money. But I still want to design with my customers in mind. What to do?
That’s ok. Here are five tips that will help you do create some personas using simple user research.
- Don’t Guess – Personas aren’t a creative writing test. We’ve all seen those personas that end with something like “Bill likes baked potatoes and playing with his rescue pooch, Mr. Sniffles.” That’s not real. You made that up. And you will pay the price for it later. Instead, use some of the real data you already have. Have you sat through some usability tests? That should give you some good information to start with. Maybe you’ve done some surveys, or have analytics data that suggests some things about the online behavior of your customers. Take all that, and create a straw man.
- Talk to Real Customers – You can’t create a good persona without talking to real customers. Don’t just ask them how they feel about this or that – ask them about their goals and objectives, and what are the real life problems they’re trying to solve. Talk to as many as you can – between 10 and 20 interviews should help solidify your straw man into a draft persona.
- Better Yet, Follow Them Around – What people say and what they do are often two totally different things. People often report, after struggling terribly with a web site, that the experience was great. If you have a B2B audience, ask them if you can do a “follow-along”. Watch them do the job you are trying to help them do online. Go to some meetings with them. Sit by their desk. Most people will agree to let you if they’re convinced you’ll use the information to make their lives easier. If you’re targeting consumers, meet them in coffee shops or retail stores and watch them trying to accomplish their goals. This will take your draft persona and turn it into a working model.
- Collaborate – While you’re busy chit-chatting with customers and following them around, don’t forget to let the rest of the team in on what you’re doing. The more buy-in you have, the more educating you do, the more likely the team will be to embrace your personas rather than thank you politely and then stick them in the pile of other shiny market-y stuff people have handed them over the years.
- Reference and Refresh – People change. I’m from the time before personal computers, and sometimes I wonder what life is going to be for my five-year-old in 10 years. Will she be screeching at me about the injustice of me picking her up in a car with wheels, rather than a hovercraft? (I hope so, because that would be awesome). Anyway, people change faster than that these days, and the most important thing you can do with a persona is to keep it out handy for your reference, and to do a periodic review with some of your newer customers to make sure the personas still ring true.
Curious about how personas can make a difference in your business? You’re in luck. I’m happy to talk about it any time.