What are personas?
Understanding your audience and identifying the users is essential for usability testing and the final product.
Personas are fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your real and potential customers.
Personas tell stories about users so that we can understand the user and what the user wants, they also help in guiding decisions about products aims, functionality and design. Personas connect the common needs of multiple actual people making up a specific user group which is created after analyzing and categorizing data from user research.
User and persona
Though “persona” is used interchangeably with “user” these two terms differ in meaning when it comes to usability.
A “user” means different things to different people and is often used generically to describe the average customer. Persona in the other hand is a narrative that describes a person’s typical day and experiences, as well as skills, attitude, background, environment, and goals.
We need to start with personas in order to define the users.
How personas help in usability testing?
Personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of users in order to help to guide decisions about a product. By using personas that everyone agrees to, the designers and developers (and everyone else on the project) can discuss how changes to the product will affect each representative user.
By designing an interface to meet the needs of specific personas, the needs of wider groups of users with similar goals are met.
Personas keep you focused
Personas concentrate on what a user does, what frustrates the user, and what gives the user satisfaction, they bring the “user” to life by providing a specific target for designing a final product and creating software with a specific, not generic, user in mind. Some teams use them as a reminder throughout the development life cycle about what’s important to users.
Without personas, discussion to becomes unfocused, leading to questions like “But what about the user who wants to do X?” or “But this works for me.” . With personas, the conversation becomes “How does this change benefit ‘Allan’?” or “What can we do to make things easier for ‘Amanda’?”
When should you create personas?
Personas development should be placed at the beginning of the project, as personas can help uncover gaps, highlight new opportunities and are critical to have before making any significant changes to an existing project.
How to define personas for different products?
There’s no standard format for presenting personas across the industry, different experts have offered different approaches. Regardless of the selected approach, what’s important is being able to group all analysis results and formulate them in a way to express what users think and what they expect.
Creating personas for smaller systems such as an image processing software or a development tool are easier because the targeted users are very specific, but there are other systems with a wide range of users which makes defining personas more difficult.
So how do define personas for a general systems, for example GNOME 3?
We want all the users to be comfortable with the software. So the goal was to design “a self-teaching interface for beginners, and an efficient interface for advanced users, but optimize for intermediates”. Someone might be beginner to start with, but over time we want the design to encourage them to become more expert. In this sense, a persona can be thought of as a person at a particular moment in time, but that person is always evolving and learning.
If we want to be more specific we can break down the personas into different categories, like: experience vs age or divide the experience into four areas (for example: Beginner, Moderate, Experienced, Expert).
In my next post I will be creating an example of Persona, so you can get a general idea of how a persona should look like.