Latin: Persona = Mask, Character played by an actor
In large open air theatres, classical masks were able to bring a character’s face closer to the audience.
In the present scenario, in the field of Product Development, Marketing etc., actual customers are described by visual storiescalled Personas. Personas are fictional characters representing commonalities of a representative sample of a system. They draw a comprehensive picture of the users. The details include what our users want to accomplish, what skills they may or may not have and what their needs, wants and priorities are.
Although the personas are hypothetical, they are defined with rigor and precision.
Personas are used as part of a user-centered design approach (defined by Donald Norman, http://jnd.org) for designing software and are also considered a part of interaction design (IxD). In the recent times, Personas are used effectively in the areas like branding and online marketing.
- By having a fictional face and character to an abstract user of a system, the development (or marketing or branding) team, gets a reasonable idea of the user, their behaviour, buying / sellling / usage patterns, demography, etc. Also, this helps the team in having a common understanding of the user’s context, capabilities, expectations, needs and wants.
- In Product Development scenario, having well defined personas, help in prioritizing the features.
- Helps in arriving at strategic decisions to address a specific persona or a few personas from the possible addressable lot.
- Personas help the team connect with the user.
- A persona can be used in meetings as an effective discussion tool in story boarding, role playing and other usability activities.
We can arrive at personas by brainstorming, user research, customer interview, secondary research of industry data, etc. It is a good practice to arrive at more than one user persona representing each key customer segment so that we could develop features to meet their expectations.
Usually a persona would touch upon most of the following:
- Profile: Name, picture, age, gender, role, designation
- Archetype and quotes: Might refer to character or relationship with the product / service
- Personality traits
- Tech savviness
- Goals / motivation
A few more examples:
A persona is NOT a replacement for real user testing. This should never replace conducting usability activities with end users.
Next in series:
Product Visioning: 2.2 User Persona – Goals, Pains and Gains
After identifying our personas, we have to detail out their goals, motivations, pain points and gains. Pains are their challenges and the gains are benefits if and when they use our system.