Personas

Introductory articles

  • An introduction to personas and how to create them
    "This article explains what personas are, benefits of using personas, answers to common objections about personas, and practical steps towards creating them. It is meant as an introduction to personas, and provides enough information to start creating your own."
    (Tina Calabria - Step Two Designs)

  • Getting started with personas (PDF)
    "This whitepaper will go through the basic persona building steps. It is based on a collection of persona building blog posts from FutureNow’s GrokDotCom blog."
    (Howard Kaplan - FutureNow)

  • How personas and scenarios can change your website for the better, part 1
    "This is the first of two articles in which I’ll be making the business case for using personas and scenarios to improve your website. I’ll give you a flavour of what’s involved in using the personas and scenarios and provide a few examples of the kinds of problems we’ve solved for our clients using these techniques. In this first article, we’ll look at the core concepts of personas, leaving scenarios until next month."
    (John Wood - IQ Content)

  • How personas and scenarios can change your website for the better, part 2
    "Personas and scenarios are techniques for representing your users and the things they do on your website. They are one of the key tools in iQ Content’s arsenal, and we deploy them at every opportunity because they deliver more benefits for less effort than anything else that we do. In fact, we have seen this technique transform confused and failing web projects by providing a sense of direction and purpose that set the team on the road to success."
    (John Wood - IQ Content)

Discussion articles

  • Accessibility in the analysis phase: personas
    "The purpose of personas is to make the users seem more real, to help designers keep realistic ideas of users throughout the design process. A persona with a disability includes the same specific characteristics, demographics, experience level, and personal details as other personas. Personas that include accessibility considerations also include a description of the limiting condition (disability or situational limitation) and the adaptive strategies for using the product."
    (Shawn L Henry - Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design)

  • Accessibility in the analysis phase: user group profiles
    "User group profiles describe the characteristics of product users, the people who use a product. Because many designers start out with little or no familiarity with accessibility issues, adding accessibility considerations to user group profiles is particularly important."
    (Shawn L Henry - Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design)

  • Ad-hoc personas and empathetic focus
    "Do Personas have to be accurate? Do they require a large body of research? Not always, I conclude. The Personas must indeed reflect the target group for the design team, but for some purposes, that is sufficient."
    (Donald Norman)

  • A persona 'ah-ha' (PDF)
    "In an attempt to communicate that “ah-ha” moment of mental re-organization brought on by a really valid persona, I’ve attached a simplified before personas and after personas scenario. I hope you find it useful."
    (Bonnie Rind)

  • Bringing your personas to life in real life
    "When presenting, talking about your personas, or referring to them in writing, communicate as though they are real people, people that you know. Express it like you are talking about a friend."
    (Elan Freydenson - Boxes and Arrows)

  • Creating personas for information rich websites
    "Design personas are one of the most powerful tools in a designer’s toolbox. They help bring the vibrant, living presence of 'a specific user' into your design process. They facilitate communication between your engineering, marketing and design teams. Trouble is, how to get started with the making or creation of personas."
    (Rashmi Sinha)

  • Creating quality personas: understanding the levers that drive user behaviour (PDF)
    "The best personas will also go the extra step to describe key behaviors such as a decision making process, an information browsing approach, or a shopping mode - the drivers that affect how people approach a given solution."
    (Shannon Ford)

  • Customer story-telling at the heart of business success
    "As most of us know by now, customer personas and scenarios are vehicles for helping an organization continuously keep their customers in their line of sight. Traditional segmentation identifies and categorizes a current or potential audience based upon common characteristics, including demographics, attitudes, behavior, transactions, frequency of interaction, spend, and more. They are discovered by 'doing the math', which may include data aggregation, cluster analysis, factor analysis, and other statistical methods applied to large sample sets. And then segments are given catchy names like Savvy Skeptics, Active Balancers, Indulgent Nutritionist, or Trade-Uppers. When done right, segments are statistically derived from the analysis and synthesis of quantitative data and are a solid foundation for customer understanding. We create personas to build upon that platform by bringing the individuals within those segments to life. These are prototypical, but fundamentally real, stories of the multidimensional lives of specific customers. This report discusses how the Arc Worldwide’s Experience Planning group uses storytelling and multidimensional customer-based stories to provide relevance, direction, and resonance in today’s business planning landscape."
    (Parrish Hanna - Boxes and Arrows)

  • Getting from research to personas: harnessing the power of data
    "The usefulness of personas in defining and designing interactive products has become more widely accepted in the last few years, but lack of published information has, unfortunately, left room for a lot of misconceptions about how personas are created, and about what information actually comprises a persona."
    (Kim Goodwin - Cooper)

  • Is this you? (Reader persona design: an example)
    "Do you work in a medium-to-large organization whose web content you feel could be put to better use? If so, you’re my target reader."
    (Gerry McGovern - New Thinking)

  • Key steps in creating your reader persona
    "The first step in developing successful reader personas is to decide what readers you are not going to focus on. Good web management is often more about what you exclude than what you include."
    (Gerry McGovern - New Thinking)

  • Making personas more powerful: details to drive strategic and tactical design
    "Personas ought to be one of the defining techniques in user-focused design, but they've unfortunately become more of a check-off item than a useful tool. So how did we get here?"
    (George Olsen - Boxes and Arrows)

  • Making personas sparkle like diamonds, part 1
    "Early in our company's life, persona development was largely an intuitive process. We wanted to develop a process we could use to train clients and partners to duplicate the persona development process. To do this, we delved into literature and film to understand character development. We were fortunate to be introduced to a prominent Hollywood screenwriter and script evaluator, David Freeman. Freeman taught us about 'character diamonds'... Today we'll share what we learned."
    (Bryan Eisenberg - ClickZ)

  • Making personas sparkle like diamonds, part 2
    "Last week, we discussed what we learned from David Freeman's character diamonds and masks. This week, we study these, and their applications, in more depth. Here's more from David Freeman."
    (Bryan Eisenberg - ClickZ)

  • Perfecting your personas
    "It's easy to assemble a set of user characteristics and call it a persona, but it's not so easy to create personas that are truly effective design and communication tools. If you have begun to create your own personas, here are some tips to help you perfect them."
    (Kim Goodwin - Cooper)

  • Persona creation and usage toolkit (PDF)
    "This toolkit provides resources for a variety of situations. enables you to build up detailed profiles of the personas themselves, their relationship to the product, and the context in which they use the product. The intended user of the toolkit is the product’s designer."
    (George Olsen)

  • Persona development and the law of averages
    "Persona is a hot buzzword in this industry, yet most companies that create personas haven't fully embraced everything they have to offer. Most personas are watered-down and hard to relate to. The worst of the lot are lifeless outlines of a company's demographic targets. Most often, they don't deliver the expected outcome from using the persona approach."
    (Bryan Eisenberg - Clickz)

  • Persona development for information rich designs (PDF)
    "Defining information architecture for complex web sites requires understanding user information needs and mental models in that domain. Personas, or user archetypes, created for such domains should also reflect types of information needs, and usage of information set. We have created a statistical technique to identify important underlying groupings of information needs. In a preliminary study, we show how designers can use this information in conjunction with data from interviews and observations to generate and refine personas."
    (Rashmi Sinha)

  • Persona-led heuristic inspection is here
    "Sometimes we need to review a product for usability in circumstances where usability testing isn’t an option. Lack of time, lack of budget, unwilling client: you name it. So an improvement on the heuristic inspection would be a great idea."
    (Caroline Jarrett - Usability News)

  • Persona non grata
    "Without any research to back assumptions, it's easy to end up with a product built for what designers think the users are like, rather than what the users really are like. It's the difference between reading about someone and actually meeting them, between fantasy and reality. The best personas are really conceptual models, which help you to digest the user research in a coherent way. They put a name and face to an observed pattern of behavior."
    (Dan Saffer - Adaptive Path)

  • Personas and contextual design
    "Personas, introduced by Alan Cooper, are a technique of goal-directed design that is meant to help designers gain clarity and provide focus during the design process. They describe the goals and activities of archetypal users in a 1-2 page description based on a few ethnographic interviews with real users. Aside from the fact that personas are a current design trend, what makes personas interesting? Certainly they are seductive to design teams since they can be quick to create if they only require a few (2-3) interviews and a good writer. But good designers and managers know that reliable requirements gathering and design that meets the needs of the business, the market, and the user is not so simply constructed. So something else must be going on."
    (Karen Holzblatt - InContext)

  • Personas and storytelling
    "Personas work because they tell stories. Stories are part of every community. They communicate culture, organize and transmit information. Most importantly, they spark the imagination as you explore new ideas. They can ignite action."
    (Whitney Quesenbery)

  • Personas and the customer decision-making process
    "With this case study I want to show how our team used the concept of personas - fictional, representative user archetypes - and the customer decision-making process model in a project, in order to capture the nature of customers and their needs and concerns as they progress through the customer decision-making process."
    (Henrik Olsen - guuui.com)

  • Personas and user profiles
    A collection of resources from STC Usability SIG. Includes articles on creating personas, case studies, sample personas.

  • Personas, goals and emotional design
    "In the first three chapters of Emotional Design, Norman presents his three-level theory of cognitive processing and discusses its potential importance to design. However, Emotional Design does not suggest a method for systematically integrating Norman’s insightful model of cognition and affect into the practice of user experience design."
    (Robert Reimann - UXmatters)

  • Persona sketching
    "The value of personas in Web design is certainly debatable, but I've found them very useful, if for nothing else then using them to help pull your clients and stakeholders into a discussion about the people what interact with your designs. As well, they can be use for many other things aside from informing Web design and can be a great way to pull business and user goals together."
    (D. Keith Robinson)

  • Personas: matching a design to the users' goals
    "By closely adhering to the goals of a specific persona, the designers satisfy the needs of the many users who have goals similar to those of the persona. The process is even more effective when designers design for several personas simultaneously, as they can satisfy an even larger number of users."
    (Christine Perfetti - User Interface Engineering)

  • Personas: practice and theory (PDF)
    "In three years of use, our colleagues have extended Cooper's technique to make personas a powerful complement to other usability methods. This article describes our approach and outlines the psychological theory that explains why personas are more engaging than design based on scenarios."
    (John Pruitt and Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft)

  • Personas: setting the stage for building usable information sites
    "As long as personas are developed with diligence, the planning and development tool has three key benefits for interface design projects of all kinds. First, personas introduce teams to hypothetical users who have names, personal traits, and habits that in a relatively short time become believable constructs for honing design specifications. Second, personas are stand-ins with archetypal characteristics that represent a much larger group of users. Third, personas give design teams a strong sense of what users' goals are and what an interface needs to fulfill them."
    (Alison J Head - Information Today)

  • Practical persona creation
    "What I'll do here is show you a quick and easy method to help you create your personas, as well as the basics of how they can be used. This is by no means going to be the only way this can be done, nor is it the only way personas can be used. There is much more to the world of personas than I'll be discussing here."
    (D Keith Robinson - evolt.org)

  • Reconciling market segments and personas
    "Market segmentation and personas are two different techniques that are often perceived as conflicting methods, but they are actually complementary tools that organisations can use to design and sell successful products."
    (Elaine Brechin - Cooper)

  • Taking the "you" out of user: my experience using personas
    "In 1999, I co-founded a small San Francisco-based start-up called Pyra. Our plan was to build a web-based project management tool and we chose to focus initially on web development teams for our target audience since, as web developers ourselves, we had intimate knowledge of the user group..."
    (Meg Hourihan - Boxes and Arrows)

  • The origin of personas
    "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, published in 1998, introduced the use of personas as a practical interaction design tool. Based on the single-chapter discussion in that book, personas rapidly gained popularity in the software industry due to their unusual power and effectiveness."
    (Alan Cooper - Cooper)

  • The power of the persona (PDF)
    "Personas enhance focus, communication and collaboration on any project. You should particularly consider using personas in your company when there are conflicting visions of the product, when you experience difficulties in communication between Product Management, Development, and/or Marketing, or whenever your products seem to be falling short of your users' expectations."
    (Bonnie Rind)

  • The return on investment for personas
    "Extract from The Persona Lifecycle: Keeping People in Mind throughout Product Design by John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin."
    (Anne Light - Usability News)

  • The role of personas in successful scenario design
    "Scenario design helps users achieve their goals. How do you plan scenarios? Well, if you're designing scenarios for a commercial Web site, one that demonstrates return on investment (ROI) by getting sales, leads, or registrants, you design persuasive scenarios by turning the information you have on your users into personas."
    (FutureNow)

  • Three important benefits of personas
    "Personas are becoming a regular staple in many of the development teams we talk to. The method helps teams make a smooth translation between requirements and design, resulting with much cleaner designs. The benefits of preventing grounding, encouraging story telling, and enhancing role playing are rarely discussed, yet very present when you see the method in full force. It's these benefits that guide our belief that personas will be a trusted method for many years to come."
    (Jared M Spool - User Interface Engineering)

  • Using personas to create user documentation
    "Personas and other user-modelling techniques are often solely discussed as tools for product definition and design, but they are useful tools in other arenas, as well. Technical writers responsible for creating user documentation can benefit greatly from a well-defined persona set, too."
    (Steve Calde - Cooper)

  • When you create personas, stay clear of stereotypes
    "You might not see their faces out there behind the computer screens and your Web analytics, but you are dealing with real people who have real needs and complicated motivations. Create a persuasive architecture based on stereotypes, and you’re gonna miss the boat."
    (grokdotcom)

  • Why is it so hard to make products that people love?
    "Business people don’t sit in their offices wondering how they can make a product uglier, and designers don’t want to create products that won’t sell. Everybody (usually) wants to do the right thing for the company, the products and the customers. So why do so many good designs get trampled during the product development process? To make successful products, designers and business people need to speak each other's language. They need a translator to help them understand each others’ goals and decision-making process so that instead of inadvertently working against each other, they can make each others’ jobs easier. Personas are excellent translators between design and business. "
    (Tamara Adlin, John Pruitt - AIGA Design Forum)

  • Yahoo's approach to keeping personas alive
    "One of the big struggles teams have is creating a long-term adoption of their target personas. While personas are often accepted initially, it’s hard for the team to keep them 'alive' for the entire project duration. Our research has shown those teams which manage to keep them alive are more likely to produce more usable designs, so we’re always interested in new techniques."
    (Jared M Spool - User Interface Engineering)

Research articles

  • Introducing personas in a software project (PDF)
    This Masters thesis investigates the process of creating personas and introducing their use into an ongoing software project, with the objective of providing the development team with information on user goals and characteristics as well as tools to use this information effectively.

Presentations

  • Creating and using personas and scenarios to guide site design (PDF)
    A presentation on the development and use of personas by Razorfish.
    (Dai Pham, Janiece Greene)

  • Data driven design research personas
    "Data driven design research personas and the persona DNA profile."
    (Todd Warfel - Messagefirst)

  • How to effectively focus on your website users: creating personas
    "You can effectively focus on your website and intranet users by creating personas. Common complaints, mistakes and problems and be solved through using personas to provide a clear focus for website and intranet design. Case Study and benefits of using personas are provided."
    (Catherine Elder - Prescient Digital Media)

  • Personas: Bringing Users Alive (PDF)
    Presentation from 2003
    (Whitney Quesenbery)

  • Putting Personas to Work (PDF)
    "Improving your scenarios, reviews and usability testing with personas"
    (Whitney Quesenbery)

  • The user is always right: making personas work for your site
    "How do we ensure that our Web sites actually give users what they need and deliver results? Personas bring user research to life and make it actionable, ensuring we're making the right decisions based on the right information. Discover the latest techniques for creating personas, including advice on conducting user interviews, new methods for applying quantitative research such as surveys and log file analysis, approaches for generating persona segmentation, and fun ideas for making your personas real. It's time to take personas to the next level."
    (Steve Mulder - Mulder Media)

Examples and templates

  • Example personas
    "Fictional examples of personas that include accessibility considerations."
    (Shawn L Henry - Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design)

  • Example personas
    "One thing to point out, depending on the site and the requirements the information gathered may be different. With these I asked alot of questions about online shopping and other things related to the Daisy Bead site."
    (Keith D Robinson - Asterisk)

  • Example user group profiles
    "Fictional examples of user group profiles that include accessibility considerations."
    (Shawn L Henry - Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design)

  • Example personas (PDF)
    Three example personas drawn from client work by Quarry Integrated Communications.

  • Organisational management personas (PDF)
    A set of personas for a HR application, showing primary, secondary and other personas.

  • Persona chart (Word)
    From Adaptive Path, a document showing the format for a sample persona.

  • Personas for the S2S Project
    Personas for a software development project.

  • Persona templates
    "I'm sharing the source file templates for my data-driven personas. The main file is an InDesign (INDD) file and the visual chart is in Illustrator file. I've included a few versions, including PDF, CS3 and CS4. The CS3 and CS4 versions include a PDF."
    (Todd Warfel)

  • Personal templates V2
    "Based on a few requests, I’ve included a few versions, including PDF, CS3 and CS4. The CS3 and CS4 versions include a PDF."
    (Todd Warfel)

  • Razorfish personas (PDF)
    A set of three personas for a financial investment website, showing personal narrative and key characteristics along with scenarios of use.

  • Web Accessibility Initiative personas
    Set of personas apparently developed for use during the redevelopment of the WAI website.

  • Web Master Portal - roles and scenarios
    Includes a persona of a webmaster.