Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Occasional Series I - Personas

A couple of people have asked me about building personas - what do you put in and what do you leave out? The answer - simple ... you put enough in so that most people can say "hey, I know someone like that" and you leave out anything that looks like it's unique to an individual.

Most times, the data you need for building personas is available from secondary or tertiary sources (tertiary data source means you take somebody else's personas holus-bolus). If team members or vendors are telling you that specific research is necessary, then they're ahead of themselves - they're getting focused on "how" rather than "who".

Here's a link to an example persona we built for a social media play: example persona. Notice it has three components:
  1. the profile, where we apply some demographics and technographics so we build a picture of the person;
  2. the schedule, where we try to provide a context for the profile;
  3. the word picture; where we add some comments to "round" out the character and give life to the psychographics.

And please, before any comments, recognize that this is a very stripped down version designed to give you an idea of what might be included. For our Flex build in 2005, we developed eleven of these personas - all from secondary data - which we later informed with UX research. Each was about 1mB.

Why personas? Go back to the methodology - the most important component is understanding who you're building this for. Getting a picture of them that everyone can share is vital.

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