Frequently Asked Questions

How many personas do we need?

It is important to have personas to represent the different roles and personality types of your potential users. If we’re selling enterprise software, for instance, we’ll want to know something about (1) The Buyer, (2) The Administrator, and (3) the User. For consumer products, think about characteristics that would affect peoples’ behavior and make sure your core markets are represented. If we’re selling female-targeted home goods, it may be useful, for instance, to have a persona for a stay-at-home mom, a full-time worker that employs a nanny, and a blue collar worker that sometimes treats herself.

I’d start with at least two and try to make them behaviorally diverse (personas are a tool, having two that are exactly the same isn’t useful in conversations).

How detailed do they need to be?

Try to make them “human” enough with a name, a picture, age, and a quote that captures their motivations and life aspirations.

After that, focus on qualities that will inform your conversations – you’ll want to paint a picture of the context for the product buy/use situation.

  • If you sell a software product, think about how tech savvy this person would be. Would he understand this?
  • If you’re designing a retail environment, think about this person’s schedule, whether he shops alone or with friends / kids / significant other in tow. This will spur conversations about attention span, free hands, whether glass items should be on the bottom shelves, etc…
  • If your product will be used “in the field,” make sure you’ve captured that. Will they be wearing gloves? How many hands will they have free? Are they working under dangerous conditions that will split their attention?

I’m afraid my team will think this is dumb fluff.

They might at first. When I think that that may be the case, I like to wait to present personas until a situation calls for it; this generally takes the form of a super confusing conversation or an unresolvable argument about what “the user” would want. A persona’s name is a handle for a group of attributes – in confusing conversations, people grasp for handles.

Often in these situations, it is helpful to say “what if there are two kinds of user, one that would prefer a bank transfer, and another that would prefer to use cash. Lets call the bank transfer user ‘Alonso’ and the cash user ‘Carmen.'” At this point, I’ll draw two smiley faces on the board and write their names above them. “First, lets talk about the best case for Carmen, then we’ll shift to Alonzo.”

Don’t answer all of the questions – try to facilitate a conversation where the other team members describe the situations of the two personas. Teams take more ownership over things that they’ve built themselves. When team members say things that you think are representative, write them as bullet points under the smiley faces. When the team doesn’t know something, write it as a question – the team can figure this out later.

<image: a sheet of paper with a person’s face on it, some typed bullets and some written out ones>

There you go – you’ve introduced the concept of personas in a way that it is useful to to the team. After the meeting, grab a couple pictures off of a google image search, and print out the personas on a piece of paper each, and post them in the team room or another place where people can see them. Add more personas as needed.

Categories: How To