“When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as “SOME User Experience” or… SUX?” — Billy Gregory, Senior Accessibility Engineer
How can designers make sure they design their website or app to fit everyone’s needs? From the rookie user to the expert, designers need to put themselves in others’ shoes to create the best user experience possible. There are many things designers can do to achieve this goal, but today I am going to focus on personas.
“A persona is a way to model, summarize and communicate research about people who have been observed or researched in some way. A persona is depicted as a specific person but is not a real individual; rather, it is synthesized from observations of many people.”Shlomo Goltz
Why Use Personas?
Now, why should the design team spend their time coming up with these made-up people? Well, personas can help answer very specific questions. For example, what motivates the user to use Barnes and Noble website over its’ competitors? By looking at the persona, the team and see that “Tom” knows nothing about the book industry other than Barnes and Noble is one of the most popular bookstores in the United States.
But designers don’t just design for “Tom,” they need to design for multiple perspectives. The designers also need to think about people such as “Nancy,” who knows books better than most booksellers. So, how do designers create a persona?
Another benefit of personas is that they are quick and inexpensive. It is not a long process, and there are many templates available for easy inspiration. Sometimes it is easy to get distracted by coming up with too many details, but remember that these personas represent a group of people and keep them short with only one to two pages of information.
There are many different websites and templates on the Internet to help with your creation of a persona. Xtensio and PersonaGenerator can help make the process go by even faster. My favorite comes from this Beaker&Flint article where the author, Ben Ralph, reminds us to go beyond the prompts of the template and create a persona that fits the designers’ needs. He also goes into detail and breaks down the process and how the designer should think when filling out each section. This particular template has five sections, and I used it to create two personas of my own.
- First impressions: profile photo, name, role, demographics, quotes
- Motivation & Behavior: goals, journey, motivation vs. ability, motivating factors, inhibiting factors, possible triggers
- Influencers: what factors into their decision to use the site/app?
- Environment: where is the site/app being used? how?
- Persona Family: related personas, persona matrix
Meet Jennifer & Greg
A few weeks ago, I did a website analysis of Barnes and Noble and Waterstones to understand some of the feelings and needs that I user would go through while using the sites. This week, I was challenged to come up with two personas that would use the Barnes and Noble website to better understand how to create a persona.
I started by printing two templates to fill out. One persona came from my own perspective, and the other one needed to come from a hypothetical user’s perspective. To get into the other user’s head, I reflected on past experiences with customers as a bookseller. It made it a lot easier to complete the template because I had already experienced some of the thoughts and opinions of new reads, casual readers, and avid readers.
Next, I broke my personas into two roles, the book lover and the casual reader. I named the book lover Jennifer, after myself, and the casual reader as Greg, because that was the first name I could think of. I didn’t dwell too long on the names because I knew they weren’t representing a single person but a group of users.
Then, I moved on to my goals and journey. For Jennifer’s profile, it was easy. I quickly filled in my monthly reading goals and how I got to be an avid reader. Some parts of Greg’s profile were tricky. I struggled to come up with some of his goals and how he got to be a reader. In the end, what helped me was reflecting the journey in Jennifer’s profile and then saying the opposite.
The motivations and ability section was straightforward to fill out. Based on the information I had already filled in, it was easy for me to determine each persona’s motivation and ability to use the Barnes and Noble website. Jennifer is highly motivated to use the site, but she is restricted due to her financial situation. On the other side, Greg has the funds to pay but lacks the motivation to purchase books.
Choosing influencers got a little more tricky for both users. I really struggled to put myself in both users’ perspectives and dig deep to figure out what influences the users to use or not use the site. With more experience creating personas, I think the influencers might come easier.
Thinking of environments was another easy step. For Jennifer’s profile, and myself, I knew that most of her shopping and browsing the site is on her phone, which could be done anywhere, but mostly at home. Greg was a little more complicated. He is a casual reader that sometimes gets suggestions from coworkers, so I knew I needed to add his work computer as well.
Lastly, creating related personas was fun. For Jennifer, I came up with more reader-centered personas while creating more professional personas for Greg. Next, I had to create a persona matrix to see where each persona could relate to one another. For the axis, I choose to focus on cost and literary knowledge. From there, I placed each persona in its appropriate quadrant and added “book lover” for Jennifer’s persona and “casual reader” for Greg’s persona.
Overall, I think personas are a great tool in user design. It allows designers to answer different questions and allows them to design for many different types of users.
Create my own personas has taught me how to think outside the box and put myself in someone else’s shoes. Sometimes it was hard to think like a different person, especially since I only had prior conversations to go off of. All in all, it was fun to get creative and try something new.
Check out my full template for both of my personas here: