Personas provide us with a precise way of thinking and communicating about how users behave, how they think, what they wish to accomplish, and why. Personas are not real people, but they are based on the behaviors and motivations of real people we have observed and represent them throughout the design process. They are composite archetypes based on behavioral data gathered from many actual users encountered in ethnographic interviews.*
In my role as a UX Analyst at FNB, I interviewed numerous users and was able to distill behavioral patterns from these interviews, which I applied to persona development. Typically the process was to gather potential users from product owners and applicable business unit. This is what I refer to as the ‘market segment’ pool of potential interviewees.
My interview questions were planned in advance of engaging with prospective interviewees. I based my questions on the psychology concept of Theory of Planned Behavior. Gleaning information in the three main categories related to the subjects attitudes, perception of subjective norms, and perceived control, allowed me to determine behavioral motivations. From the questions and observational notes, behavioral patterns clearly emerged.
Personas resolve three design issues that arise during product development*:
- The elastic user – every person on a product team has his/her own conceptions of who the user is and what the user needs. When it comes time to make product decisions, this “user” becomes elastic, conveniently bending and stretching to fit the opinions and presumptions of whoever’s talking.
- Self-referential design – self-referential design occurs when designers or developers project their own goals, motivations, skills, and mental models onto a product’s design.
- Edge cases – typically, edge cases must be designed and programmed for, but they should never be the design focus.
*Alan Cooper, About Face Essentials of Interaction Design