Personas

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Engineering Areas
Analysis & problem definition, Ideation & Conceptual design
Group or individual
Group
Amount of people
Up to 15
Type of activity
Collaborative team setting, On-line Classroom activity
Duration
Half an hour or less, Between half an hour and one hour
Type of class
Undetermined

Description

What is this technique about

Personas are created to recognise the needs and expectations of the users/customers. Personas are composed of actual data collected from multiple individuals, and they may not describe real people. It makes the design task less complex as it can guide the ideation process and helps in achieving the goal of creating a good user experience for the target group.

Personas are typically used in four different perspectives based on the objectives to be attained:

    1. Goal-directed personas – The objective of a goal-directed persona is to examine the process and workflow that a user would utilise to achieve their goals while using a specific product/service.
    2. Role-based personas – They focus on a user’s role in the organisation and help generate insights for better product design decisions.
    3. Engaging personas – They incorporate both goal and role based personas. To quote Lene Nielsen, “The engaging perspective is rooted in the ability of stories to produce involvement and insight. Through an understanding of characters and stories, it is possible to create a vivid and realistic description of fictitious people. The purpose of the engaging perspective is to move from designers seeing the user as a stereotype with whom they are unable to identify and whose life they cannot envision, to designers actively involving themselves in the lives of the personas.”
    4. Fictional personas – Unlike the other personas, the design team creates a fictional persona from their experience and does not involve user research. They are useful during initial sketches but may be flawed as it depends entirely on the design team’s experience with interaction with users and not on user research.

Where does it come from 

Persona mapping was developed in the early 1990s for IT system development in its crude stage (variations such as user archetypes, user models, lifestyle snapshots, and model users). In 1999, in his book “The inmates are running the asylum”, Alan Cooper described how to use personas to describe fictitious users.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

The technique helps create a user-centric or human-centric approach in designing as they align the designing team to an outside-in approach through collating research, trends, and data patterns as personas. Personas also add a human touch to what would largely remain cold facts in the research. Creating persona profiles helps understand the patterns in research, which synthesises the types of users for which the product/service is designed.

How to use it

Steps involved in creating a Persona

    1. Research and Analysis – The first step involved is the research and analysis. The most common approach is to observe and interview the users to learn about them and their needs. For collecting the required data for the analysis, different methods such as usage analytics, survey and focus groups or data collection through social media may be used.
    2. Persona descriptions – Create a persona description based on the data collected and analysed. A persona description may include the user’s education, lifestyle, interests, values, goals, needs, desires, attitudes, actions, etc. Giving Personas specific names and making it realistic to an actual user/customer is also essential during this step.
    3. Problem analysis – This step validates if the persona is within the context of a user group for which the product/service is developed for, or if the current design would meet the expectation of a user profile (persona).
    4. Collaboration and Iteration – Persona creation is an iterative process and requires multiple revisions based on the user research and definition of the target group.

How to implement this techniques online

Persona creation can be implemented online by utilising a whiteboard tool such as Miro or Mural. Both of the platforms have templates available for persona creation. However, the research and data analysis phase may be conducted before starting the persona creation.

Preparation, what do before the session
    1. Prepare a time schedule and clarify for yourself the purpose of using the method. You will then be better able to explain the activity to the students.
    2. Create a list of persona types the students can select from or assign the type of persona to each group to work on.
    3. Create a templates for persona. Both Miro and Mural applications have free persona map templates.
    4. Make a guideline for the students and what they shall do during the exercise.
    5. Upload all documents to a shared folder so that all students can access them.
    6. Inform the participants that they need to access the documents on the day of the session (if they have never used the platform before, ask them to test whether they can access it.)

During application, i.e., while giving the session

    1. Introduce the session by giving the participants basic information about the exercise (e.g., timeline, guidelines, templates).
    2. Ask the students to use techniques like brainstorming or scribbling to create draft of points for the persona.
    3. Ask them to complete the persona using the template pre-shared.

Follow-up, about what to do after the session

    1. Evaluate and give feedback on the persona created based on 5 step process followed by the students.

Examples and/or testimonials

Video online on YouTube:

Tools needed

For applying the technique in an online setting, the following tools are required:

    • A whiteboard platform allows for organising the data while allowing the members to work collaboratively. Example of whiteboard tools:
      • Mural
      • Miro
      • Concept Board

Resources

Videos

Interaction Design Foundation – IxDF. (2019, September 30). What are Personas?. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnG4c4gXaQY

Pluralsight. (2014, July 16). Creating Personas for Effective User Stories. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCAeHfvsjoM

PlaybookUX. (2019, March 5). Creating Personas for User Experience Research. [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u44pBnAn7cM0

Papers

So, C., Joo, J. (2017). Does a Persona Improve Creativity? In: An International Journal for All Aspects of Design , 20(4), 459-475. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14606925.2017.1319672