Tag Archives: personas

Persona land

I haven’t written for ages, and this is because I have been in ‘persona-land’ as someone put it the other day.

Persona land is a beautiful place with many meaty challenges to get your teeth into. I love planning big websites (I wrote about doing the planning for Highlands and Islands Enterprise here) and I am currently working on a really big, exciting, challenging project that involves lots of personas, user journeys and lots of questions about where things go, what functionality is needed, and what approach should be taken with content.

Persona land is a bit more than personas but they are absolutely crucial to it – what is a country without its inhabitants? I like to create draft personas of pretty much every major type of user, think about their needs and goals, and think about the client’s needs and goals for them. Then it’s a case of grouping them and understanding which user journeys are to be taken and drawing some sketchy sitemaps and sometimes wireframes.

Making up personas is a strange business. You are creating works of fiction about reality. You are trying to put yourself in the shoes of lots of different kinds of people, and then thinking about what they have and don’t have in common.

Sometimes I spend quite a long time thinking about what their name should be or finding a picture of them, but I think this is a form of procrastination to do whilst some other part of my brain is processing all the information. It’s also due to the fact that it is sometimes very difficult to find photos – I pretty much leave stock photography alone and use google, but now that searches all the stock photos on your behalf, which is not what I want at all!

When I create personas I then have to share them with the team and with stakeholders. This is sometimes a bit like standing up in front of class to read a creative writing exercise. However, it’s essential to do this to get feedback – often there are needs and goals you have missed, or you become aware of the need for an additional persona type.

The main thing to do in this process is to not forget about the business problem that you are trying to solve. It’s not all about meeting user needs. You must ask why a new website is required, what the objectives are in terms of communications and commerce. It’s a case of balancing all this and doing the thinking up front and then testing, testing, testing as you go…


I have to go but here are a few articles on user experience and planning which I thought were quite useful.

Why is user experience getting a bad rap?

Bringing user centred design to the agile environment

5 principles of user centred design



Filed under Play, Work

Personas – non grata?

Today we had one of our regular Equator Academies.  These are really good sharing sessions where people take turns to share knowledge they think other people will find useful.  There’s often a big discussion that follows and we identify things we can start doing (or do even better) as a result.

Today Elaine was talking about what she took from the UX London conference earlier in the year.  She said something very interesting about personas, which sparked a big conversation.

She said that the speaker had said that:

  1. Personas should be developed by the same person who does the audience research
  2. Everyone should agree on the personas

These are two very important points, which we wholeheartedly agree with but which led to the following points in our discussion:

Personas should be developed and written by the same person who does the audience research

  1. This is true but the audience research and development of personas should be done by an objective observer, rather than someone in-house.
  • This helps to avoid it becoming too much about what the brand wants its customers to do, and be much more about what consumers want – i.e. it becomes insight, attitude and behaviour based as opposed to business goal based.  I am sure there are people out there in insight teams who do write good personas, but as a rule, it makes sense for it to be done externally.
  • There should also be a consensus about what a persona is.  And what it is for.
  • We come up against ‘but we have already created a segmentation for DM that you can use’ – or – ‘we gave you Mosaic profiles’ fairly often.  Personas are different from these.  A persona is not a specific group of people, more a state of mind.  The big difference between personas and segments is that the same person can be all kinds of personas – it just depends on when they visit the site and how they feel when they visit it.  For example, on a hotel site, I could be a room-booking persona, a party venue researching persona, and a business meeting persona, on 3 different occasions.
  • Personas are very specific to online.  Getting them right means you design sites that work really well, in terms of meeting your business goals but also in terms of making life easier for your target audiences.  It’s worth spending lots of time and effort getting them right because they can be used over and over again, reference documents that are as important as your brand guidelines or marketing plan.

2 Everyone should agree on the personas.

  • Because personas are so important as a resource, everyone should agree on them.  This is not the same as them being designed and tweaked by committee.  Someone has to ‘own’ them and protect them from harm.  They have to make sense to your company, but also to your agencies.

Anyway, that’s just a couple of points I thought were really important.  I love doing my own focus groups and depth interviews because it really does help me understand my audience, and I also love making personas up (it’s like writing stories).  My favourite book about personas is The User is Always Right because it makes everything seem simple.  Because it is simple.  Once you’ve made it simple.

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Filed under Work