Love, Hate, and Empathy: Why We Still Need Personas
by Kyra Edeker, Jan Moorman
UX is a relatively nascent discipline: a boisterous, hopeful, opinionated, and insightful young adult who sometimes lacks perspective. Need evidence? Just yesterday personas were a UX designers’ BFF, but today? Well, not so much.
There’s been some gossip about how they are ‘fakes’ and really don’t help build empathy. Some have even called for their total abandonment. What’s behind this trajectory from love to hate? Is there hope for personas as real empathy builders?
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Personas: A Critical Investment For Content Strategy
Personas as the silver bullet to guarantee empathy?
“Content strategy isn’t really a discipline but a defined approach to handling an organization’s content consistently across departments and channels. It can only be effective if it becomes ubiquitous to the processes and procedures that already exist within business – communications, public relations, customer service, marketing, graphic design, IT, etc. While the defined strategy may be about content, the tactics by which we achieve our content goals are really about people. Who are we publishing content for? How will they interact with the content we present? How do they define relevancy? What is meaningful and engaging to them? Borrowing a tool that user experience and interaction designers have used for years, personas are a powerful way to not only create and implement a sound content strategy, but to facilitate its adoption by everyone in the organization.”
(Kristina Mausser a.k.a. @krismausser ~ Follow the UX Leader)
Using Personas During Design and Documentation
“(…) although demographics and task analysis play an important part in persona creation, personas are more than just a collection of user profiles and groups. You should make them as real as you can. They should embody all the human attributes you’d expect to find in your users. For example, they could be moody, very task oriented, work in a specific type of environment, or even hate the idea of referring to documentation unless they are absolutely compelled to do so.”
(Niranjan Jahagirdar and Arun Joseph Martin ~ UXmatters.com)
“This is by far the nerdiest episode we ever did, so fasten your seat belts. In his session at UXcamp, Tom said: “Personas – love ‘em or hate ‘em – you can’t not use ‘em. Either you have zombies, or you have living ones.” In this recording of his session he talks about different kinds of zombies like Mirror Personas, Undead Personas, Unicorn Personas or Stupid User Personas. He gives advice on how to avoid these fellas and how to make good use of living personas during a project. As a bonus, Tom explains why 37signals doesn’t need personas at all.”
Using Persona Advocates to develop user-centric intranets and portals
“Grasping complex information needs and uses can indeed be daunting. One powerful design tool, personas, can help make sense of these needs and provide a framework for building Intranets that will satisfy a variety of needs. Effectively developed and used, personas enable Intranet teams to hone in on user needs and build interfaces and user experiences that end-user audiences can and will use.”
Personas as User Assistance and Navigation Aids
“A lot of work goes into creating personas, and I was delighted to discover this innovative way in which the team carried forward the benefits of that work into the final product, where users could benefit from it as well. The personas also provide a rich form of user experience by portraying typical practices for effectively using the portal. I recommend that other UX designers consider applying personas in this way—initially using these user research artifacts during design, then incorporating them into products as user assistance and navigation aids.”
(Mike Hughes ~ UXmatters)
The Essence of a Successful Persona Project
“Personas are a flexible and powerful tool for user researchers. They’re also one of the most misunderstood. When done well, they ensure the team focuses on the needs and delights of their users. Like other effective user research techniques, personas deliver confidence and insights to the team. Personas help the team make important design decisions with a thorough understanding of who the users are, what they need, and when they need it.”