INNOVATION TOOLS: How to create a Persona (Design Thinking)?

The persona is one of the main Design Thinking tool. It is a tool helping to take decisions regarding the design of a product and communicate with stakeholders (project members, suppliers, Executives…).

The persona is powerful when done correctly and used wisely. It allows a realistic and solid design based on what potential users await and what they want to do and can do. Each persona will define a type of users that will be satisfied by some features, some UI and a dedicated UX. It allows:

  • To communicate and share a common vision of the users among the team
  • To create empathy and affect to the users, who are hardly reachable
  • Synthesise the results of on site interviews and observations

Persona has been defined by Cooper in 1999 (main source of this article).

How to do a powerful and reliable persona?

3 steps are leading to a reliable persona.

  1. Gather information
    Through interviews, on site observations, group workshops, on line pools or questionnaires, State-of-the-art analysis… you will gather all relevant information regarding your potential users, not only on the technical side but also on its habits, hobbies and connected activities that could impact your design. Sometimes, political, religious or way of life facts can be of interest. However studies have shown that gender and age are hardly an interesting variable for product/service design.
    This phase can be time and budget consuming when doing it properly. however it can be advantageously replaced by goals and usages assumptions done by the team. In that case, those hypothesis should be validated later during the development.
  2. Synthesise results
    From the raw material gathered during the first step, a fine analysis is necessary. This analysis can be summarised (and simplified) in 4 steps:

    • Establish analysis variables and define classification scales
      At that stage you will have to identify from the raw material the variables that are defining at best your potential users.
      Example: computer users
      Variables could be:
      Need of a powerful Graphic card
      Need of a fast Internet connexion
      Buy the latest technology
      Need an up-to-date screen
      Buy the most powerful CPU
      Buy computer in parts
      Need help to define the good computer
      ….
    • Construct the analysis framework and position participants on scale
      Once that you have defined your variable you are able to define for each a scale that will allow you to segment the potential users on each dimension. This will provide you with an analysis framework on which you will position each and every potential user.
    • Define common behaviour
      Once that all your participants are positioned on the scale you should be able to de construct the participants and identify common trends among them. Those common characteristics will then define your persona(s).
      Take care not to split one participant into 2 personas. respect your participants integrity 😉
    • Build the persona(s)
      The last and easy step is then to merge the data regarding all the participants for each persona and define the characteristics of each group as a whole.
  3. Represent the persona
    The graphic representation of the persona is an important step as it will be the way to share the results of the whole process. I have personally used several template which I, at the end merged into my own design. You can find plenty of good designs on the internet. However I would really encourage you to find and design our own persona template. That’s really important that you fully understand and visualize what is the persona itself: having its own design is the key.

How to use your persona?

Your persona is the base for the communication within your team regarding the aimed users. Thus they should be communicated to your team and stakeholders. Communicated and discussed.
According to the state-of-the-art regarding persona, they are often used with scenario describing in details usages (actual or future).

How do you design and work with your personas? Leave a comment.


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