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#1 Adrian

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 08:37 AM

I'm having a read of Call to Action by Brian and Jeffrey Eisenberg at the moment, and in a section where they talk about 'uncovery', or working out who you are selling to, and what it is that you actually offer them.

They suggest building relatively detailed personas, offering caution about steteotyping, and going so far as to give these persona's full names, jobs, families etc... producing a description of at least 3 paragraphs.

Now, they specifically talk about creating detailed personas to avoid oversimplified stereotypes and superfiscial details that don't really help you. But then I start thinking, that because EVERYONE is different, EVERYONE fill up a continuos line of differences, with few that you can really 'pigeon hole'. So if you make 1 detailed persona, are you missing out on 10 other people who, though relatively similar, are different enough for you to need to change your approach?

Is there a danger that you could end up trying to cover all bases by creating 100 different detailed personas, some of them fairly similar to each other?
Or do you end up having maybe 5 personas, and trying to cover the gaps between them?

I can see the benefit of using personas, but on the couple of occasions I've been presented with them I've scoffed because they seemed to offer narrow views of the audience.

How do you go about thinking up useful user personas?

Edited by Adrian, 31 October 2007 - 08:44 AM.


#2 eKstreme

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 08:43 AM

When you develop personas, they should be at the extremes of the continuous line of differences. This way, you can clearly define the person you're targeting. Adding jobs and families is a useful exercise for consumer-focused products but not always necessary (e.g. selling an IDE to developers).

How to develop them? It's a bit of an art! I start by observing people around me if appropriate or trying to classify keywords lists into groups; e.g. keyword phrases containing the financial modifiers like "free" or "cheap" or those focused on quality like "best" or "top" or those at various stages in the buying cycle using words like "review" or "buy now" or "download".

Pierre

#3 Respree

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 10:39 AM

Maybe we can take about five steps back first.

What is a persona?

#4 Adrian

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 10:44 AM

Effectively it's a representation of someone who might visit your site. You create a fictional character, but one that hopefully represents some of the people who would visit your site, and then you use them to think about how they might interact with the site, and what you can do to improve the site for people like them.

In the book they use the American Heritage Dictionary definition of:

A voice or character representing the speaker in a literary work; The characters in a dramatic or literary work; The role that one assumes or displays in public or society; one's public image or personality, as distinguished from the inner self.



#5 cre8pc

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 01:40 PM

User personas originated with Cooper, in an attempt to design for real people.

Run a search on Kim Goodwin. She's a great resource and uses plain language. Here is an interview by UIE - Personas and Goal-Directed Design

There have been several variations of creating and implementing user personas. Obviously, the best ones come from some real data on users based on surveys with demographics, but this info is hard to obtain and never cheap.

Digging through usability studies is another way (how I do it), and looking for behaviorial studies, human factors, eye tracking...anything that offers insight into how people interact with web sites.

FutureNow, specifically the Eisenberg brothers and their team, have devised 4 personalities they use to guide design. My favorite is the "Methodical", which is what I use the most in my usability reviews. This person doesn't take any crap and has no patience. If you can sell to them or offer them an effortless experience, they return, make referrals, and convert.

One technique is the "Storytelling" technique. This is where you create a character. I compare this to acting in a play or acting class and you've just been asked to "Play the part of the multi-tasking divorced mother of 6 who has about 3 seconds to search for online courses." You describe her state of mind, emotional state, environment she's working in, type of computer, OS, browser, resolution, how many times the phone rang while she was searching with a baby on her knee and another kid is asking for math homework help..."

It can be a valuable tool in understanding that most people don't sit in a cube totally focused on their PC with their headphones on.

It's when you apply this character to a design that it gets insightful. Distractions in the environment make it difficult to stay on task and if the navigation or click paths are complicated, this person has far less time to deal with it.

Accessibility is another huge area. A user persona with ADHD is a potential user. So yes, there are limitless user personas that can be created.

This is why I like personalities approach by FutureNow. Global sites also need to consider how someone from another country may interact with their site. If no actual people are available or user testing is out of the budget, coming up with situations and characters helps flush out design issues.

I use user personas in my work as a teaching tool because often this is the first time a company has ever considered that people use their site differently than they do. :)

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 02:02 PM

I'd go for 50-50 between detailed personas and generic user arhetypes etc.
As you suggested, getting to narrow in the definition leaves alot of others out of the picture... where as trying to be generically encompassing will jsut blanket paint everyone.

So, I doubt if you can get 100% reactive resposne, but you should, in short, get enough detail from your market to build a slightly less than generic idea of your visitors.
I personally don't see everytihng applying to everyone... but in general, there will always be Needs, Wants and Desires.
Meeting each of those groups will increase the liekly hood of sucessfuly convertions, and meeting several objectives within each of those groups is liekely to generate repeat custom and recommendations.


Just seems there are so many different ways to reah the same goal... and any times it's simple a slightly different incomming angle with a different label.
The upshot is, Know your Targets and your Markets - howyou label it or get to that is up to you.

#7 send2paul

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 02:37 PM

Adrian - hi :)

I knew we'd discussed this a few times before, so I dug around the archives and came up with a few conversations which might be of help, (if you haven't seen them already)...

1. Tool to help come up with great copy: Site Persona

2. User Personas - Intro to them - started by Kim! :) - which included this very useful link: An introduction to personas and how to create them (It's from March 2004, so some of the info might be dated).

It's all very intriguing this persona business... that's about all I can add to this debate :)

#8 iamlost

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 04:11 PM

The reasons for developing some 'awareness' of your traffic are (1) you design for them and not yourself, (2) focus down from the 'whole world' to the best conversion targets, and (3) build a structure to define your analytics data collection and use.

Most of us do not run focus groups, user testing, etc. but we do collect (or certainly should) web site visitor data (analytics). There is also an amazing amount of general (even free!) demographic data available, in print and online, if one is willing to research, extrapolate, and synthesise.

I view personas as various virtual visitor creations (alliteration!) representing 'who' visits a site/niche. My personas are real simple 'visitor demographic combinations': graphing statistical datapoint overlaps, i.e. broadband and dial-up; urban, suburban, rural, and unknown; geolocation age, sex, income, and social mores by percentage; niche interest levels by age, sex, income, location percentages; adaptive technologies used; etc.

Typically, I end up with eight to twelve obvious combinations (it tends to grow with time) that I label 'personas'. Crude but effective.

Then I run these personas through site scenarios. Basically running virtual behaviour drills noting why they come (from where, looking for what) and the impressions/problems they encounter (given their persona capabilities, disabilities, and biases).

The first site for which I built these virtual guests and drills seemed in constant design flux until I realised that I was putting too much 'me' into the scenarios. It was extremely difficult to separate what 'I, the designer' knew about the site from that of the persona.

If I was starting over I would have Kim and a few other specialists on speed dial - there is real value in competent third party testing. If budget is a concern (!) I recommend getting a friend or three to help develop the scenarios and to totally run the drills. Note: unless you go the stats route as I did I strongly recommend working with someone of the opposite sex to develop narrative personas.

I have done this now for all my sites and (1) it got easier and faster with each one; (2) subsequently fewer 'barriers' are uncovered as prior lessons learned are incorporated; (3) time on site, page views, conversion percentage, visitor retention, ROI, etc. increased dramatically as 'found' barriers were addressed; (4) personas are very very very useful in determining which Social Media sites attract 'your' visitors - and which do not.

#9 Adrian

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 06:08 PM

FutureNow, specifically the Eisenberg brothers and their team, have devised 4 personalities they use to guide design. My favorite is the "Methodical", which is what I use the most in my usability reviews. This person doesn't take any crap and has no patience. If you can sell to them or offer them an effortless experience, they return, make referrals, and convert.


Heh, yeah, they've introduced those 'types' as they've been talking about personas. I had a bit of fun trying to work out which I was. Probably some mixture of Methodical and Competitive I reckon :)
And they are goo at pointing out that even with these guides to types of people, most of mixtures of the 4, and when dealing with your site/product, someone who is usually Methodical could act Humanistic, because of what it is. So it goes a bitbeyond knowing who your audience are.

focus down from the 'whole world' to the best conversion targets


That's a good point. And maybe what's caused me to scoff a bit at the couple of attempts I saw at personas at my last job. I got the impression they created personas of the people they wanted to visit the site, not necessarily the people who actually did, and perhaps not the people who actually helped generate the revenue.
It is fair enough to focus primarily on those who are going to convert, and then add in the extras to take account of people who may not directly convert, but who act as connectors to people who might become customers.

Most of us do not run focus groups, user testing, etc. but we do collect (or certainly should) web site visitor data (analytics). There is also an amazing amount of general (even free!) demographic data available, in print and online, if one is willing to research, extrapolate, and synthesise.


I think this is the point I'm kind of missing. I've read about the personas and jumped straight to thinking about creating them, who they would be, what would they be like. But without any references to pull from or evidence to back up the behaviour of the personas that could be created.

Thanks guys, useful input all round :)

And yeah, I remembered it had been discussed a couple times before, Paul, but I looked back over the top 3 or 4 pages of the Usability forum and couldn't see the threads, so thought maybe it was time to bring them up again :)

As I read a few more pages into the book, I get the impression they are going to answer some of the questions I've got anyway :)

#10 saschaeh

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 12:40 AM

I get the impression they are going to answer some of the questions I've got anyway

Well i would certainly love to know what answers you unearth. :)

#11 victor363

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 12:10 PM

Persona's are a pretty abstract concept: for anyone having a hard time grasping the 'big picture' behind them - or just to see them in action: read this post (2 parter) by Brian Eisenberg. This is not in the book 'Call to action' btw (it should be though).

Now, they specifically talk about creating detailed personas to avoid oversimplified stereotypes and superfiscial details that don't really help you. But then I start thinking, that because EVERYONE is different, EVERYONE fill up a continuous line of differences, with few that you can really 'pigeon hole'. So if you make 1 detailed persona, are you missing out on 10 other people who, though relatively similar, are different enough for you to need to change your approach?


I usually take any knowledge imparted by the Eisenberg brothers pretty seriously, considering they are the best marketer's in the world and all. However, I have always felt that their goal here was to contribute to the science of marketing with some standardized and measurable procedure's. However, just like some people can multiply huge numbers in their head; I'm sure some marketer's don't need to think of persona's when designing their site's.

A lot has been written (online) by futurenow about how they create their persona's and make the characters 'more real'. I think they do this so that they can empathize with them better. Have any friend's that you feel like "you know them better than they know themselves"? If so, you can emphasize with them and predict their actions or responses, just like you want to emphasize with your persona's and predict their actions.
.......I wonder how this compares to the character creation process of novelists and screenwriters?

Best regards,

Victor


PS: I would love to see someone post their persona's and associated landing pages. This is a grey area for me, and I need as much practice with it as I can get ( also, it is a lot easier to learn from other people's websites since 1) there is no pressure and 2) you aren't suffering from 'inside the bottle' syndrome aka tunnel vision.

#12 Ron Carnell

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 01:25 PM

I could actually recommend several good books on creating user personas, but I suspect the best of the bunch would be this one.

Seriously. No, I mean, really. :-)

There are three sections to Dynamic Characters and the more pragmatic marketers can safely jump to the third, titled "Characters and Plot." This section, some hundred pages long, explores the never ending interaction between character development and plot, or put differently, people and what they do.

Asking what kind of individuals would buy your product isn't greatly different than asking what kind of character would spend every waking moment hunting a big white whale. It's a process of building characters to fit the plot, but it works equally well in reverse. Once you know what it would take to tell the story of Moby Dick, you also know what that character would NEVER be willing to do (we know, for example, that Ahab won't be running any marathons between ocean voyages). Plot is driven by character because what a person will do is determined by who that person is.

The Eisenberg's, as best I know (I have three of their books), never use the term narrative marketing, but I think they nonetheless advocate it, even if only indirectly. Personally, I think everything is a story; that's just the way the human brain is wired. And, yea, that includes building fictional characters that come to life through narrative.

#13 cre8pc

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 01:41 PM

Interesting suggestion! I like it because my guess is that the book supports not stereotyping characters.

That's the thing about user personas and a recognized danger.

Certain habits and behaviors can be categorized easier than coming up with 2000 potential individual users. (FutureNow leans on personality tests for example.)

When I create them, I often pick the unexpected visitor. For example, on auto parts sites, I use women rather than men because women, regardless of their car part knowledge or experience, may be more likely to be in a very different environment when searching for them than their male counterparts. Their brains work differently, which is one of the things FutureNow is exceptional at understanding and applying to their work.

User personas allow you to think outside the box and really stretch out and reach all kinds of people.

Another example is a site I reviewed targeted to young people but it sold products parents might want to buy for their kids. The site design, images, look and feel was so specifically targeted to kids that it was downright rude to adults - who have the credit cards. My user persona was a mom looking for something for her son, that he said he wanted from that site. Did they design it to include her?

Site designers aren't known for thinking like this, nor are stakeholders, which is why user persona work can be so valuable.

#14 victor363

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 02:08 PM

When I create them, I often pick the unexpected visitor. For example, on auto parts sites, I use women rather than men because women, regardless of their car part knowledge or experience, may be more likely to be in a very different environment when searching for them than their male counterparts. Their brains work differently, which is one of the things FutureNow is exceptional at understanding and applying to their work.


I like this philosophy as it probably ensures usability for the lowest common denominator. I imagine it makes the information less predictable for the target users as well - always a good thing.



Ron,

Thanks for the very informative post and for putting that book on my radar. It's convenient to have a writer here to answer our questions :)

To create a believablle character, what do your feelings about them have to be like? I've heard that the best way to understand a character or person, is to be able to love them - what do you think of this statement?

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 02:11 PM

Okay... I think I'm going to come in from the far end of the spectrum on this one.

If there is a new client, with a new site.... how do you go about explaining to them the benefits of this type of practice... and more difficult still, how do you profile people that don't technically exist yet?

Profiling general only works on existing subjexts - so unless I'm mistaken, this sort of thing cannot be done until the site is somewhat established and has some form of usage.

Ideas?

#16 victor363

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 02:40 PM

If there is a new client, with a new site.... how do you go about explaining to them the benefits of this type of practice... and more difficult still, how do you profile people that don't technically exist yet?


Persona creation is a neccessary step to matching site copy to user's personality type's. Speaking 'in a person's language' was established as an effective sales technique well before the 90's. Though honestly, I think creating persona's will help them whether you can pull this off or not.


Profiling general only works on existing subjexts - so unless I'm mistaken, this sort of thing cannot be done until the site is somewhat established and has some form of usage.


Sounds good in theory; but personally speaking, I have a much harder time working on site marketing and sales if I'm working on a site that I've been involved with over a period of time. Tunnel vision is a real thing - and it can make the simplest tasks seem ten times harder.

#17 iamlost

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 02:56 PM

Profiling general only works on existing subjexts -

But the site content and purpose already point the way.

To take Kim's example: a site selling something that interests kids:
* you (should/could) have demographic data for the target children - who will do the persuading.
* for their parent(s) - who will actually do the purchasing (and subsequent recommendation).
* for businesses that also may need such products/services, i.e. daycares, pre-schools, etc. who may also do purchasing (and subsequent recommendation).
* for the initial geo-market area - which will more finely focus the social mores and disposable incomes, etc. of the target children and parents.
* etc.

As the actual traffic begins to provide additional data it needs to be incorporated. First to more highly target the already arriving traffic; second to expand (repeatedly) the most viable fringe(s) to grow the target base - much like long-tail keywording.

As victor363 mentioned some people do this mentally without effort, most of us do it a little automatically. There are two really good reasons to create formal personas/scenarios: (1) documentation - as reminder to yourself and as knowledge to someone new coming in cold; (2) it is usually easier to spot inconsistencies and missed opportunities on the written page. And the one especially great reason for doing it at all is that it really can significantly increase ROI.

...

It all comes back to how well you know your business and how well you prepare - business plan anyone? Yah I know, shaddup about the plan already, this is Web2.0, we doan do no freaking plan. :mr_rant:

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 03:37 PM

...victor363.../...iamlost...
Good valid points... but I still cringe at the idea of smaller businesses attepting to tackle this sort of thing.
Most companies, in the UK at least, have no idea of such things (I'm assuming similar else where in te world?).

Moderate companies etc.... well yes, most of those get to be how they are due to such planning and forethought... but Home industries, Mom & Pop etc. (is that how you folk say it?) etc. won't have a clue, won't have the budget, and will ahe a damned hard time trying to convey their ideas over to me.
I'm a dab hand at business, markets and sales... I enjoyed those jobs almost as much as this line of work... yet I do not know the various markets different cliets are attempting to attract.

I general provide "basics"... such asage groups, profession levels and income types... phrasing to match the class/social etc... but I cannot do all that work - nor would I want to.


...iamlost...
Never ever stop with the plan/ning - I still reckon it's one of the best appraoches to anything (along with lists and doodles)... I still run my busiess from my plan, and I've never needed to shift from it (so flamming large it encompasses most thigns - kinds of cheating really :).



Also, on a completely different topic - why do people bother with Web 2.0 ?
Before I got here, I used to laugh and form certain opinions on those that use such a term... (It's been around long enough, and only got names after plenty of time had passed!)... yet some of you folk use it - so now I cannot use it as a baramoter for peoples knowledge any more :)

#19 iamlost

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 05:19 PM

Most companies, in the UK at least, have no idea of such things (I'm assuming similar else where in te world?).
...
...but Home industries, Mom & Pop etc. (is that how you folk say it?) etc. won't have a clue, won't have the budget, and will ahe a damned hard time trying to convey their ideas over to me.

Yah most small businesses everywhere are as clueless as most small web developers. Funny that. :)

'Formal' persona/scenario implimentation is really for (1) those building for themselves who see the value and (2) clients with the budget who see the value.

That said, simply knowing the skillset exists allows a basic ad hoc persona/scenario implimentation, i.e. appeal to kids who persuade, convert parents who buy, etc. To paraphrase Kim (and the Shadow), 'the site is for kids, why would we consider the parents?' - the developer with the persona skillset knows.

Perhaps include levels of persona/scenario building at various price points and add another competitive edge and revenue stream...

I still run my busiess from my plan, and I've never needed to shift from it (so flamming large it encompasses most thigns...

BRAVO ZULU!!!
:thumbs:
:cheers:
:band:

why do people bother with Web 2.0 ?

For the same reason people bother with toolbar PageRank :) :popcorn:

#20 cre8pc

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 06:23 PM

I wanted to also point out that user personas are used in usability testing and from the inception of design. They can be surprisingly detailed. So detailed, in fact, that they may seem like someone you know. A professionally developed user persona reads like a story, with lots of details and insight into this "person" and how they think, what they like, want, need, and believe in.

Personas are focused on experience based design. Professional ones (hiring out for professional user personas is very expensive) help in supporting user goals critical to the success of a business. Understanding these personas aids in improving marketing efforts (like the site marketed to kids but not their parents, who would be willing to purchase there). Personas determine where to spend your budget and help prioritize spending. Do you improve the application or content, for example?

What are user goals? What are their Internet habits? How do they use your product or service?

The ethnographic research alone is one reason why they're so expensive. How many do you create? For these answers, I aim for Cooper, Kim Goodwin, and their extensive work.

For small/med business, just taking it all down to basics is an eye opening experience. When you get through to a site owner via even one example of a use persona, it can really open their eyes. They rarely view their sites the same way afterwards :)

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 06:43 PM

Yah most small businesses everywhere are as clueless as most small web developers. Funny that.

LMAO - I don't neccessarily agree, but that doesn't stop it being damn funny!
Same goes for the web 2.0 / PR bar :)


...cre8pc...
I'm obviously missing something here then... Once client ahs a e-com site selling particular types of sweets.
No real idea of the customers or their backgrounds.
Without asking them directly, how do you know anything about them - you cannot even rely on Geo-locations due to some ISP structures.
The only things you ca do is look at what is often bought, what is often looked at, what the mean/mode/range of items/prices/totals are etc - oe of those thigs actually form a persona though.

Does the client need to invest in questionnaire design... feed back forms... direct corespondance etc.?
As without that sort of thing occuring, I can only assume that some of the folk that create persona's are very gifted indeed :)
I assume there is a large degree of research before personas are created - which again leads back to it not being viable for new/startups etc.

Yes - to those of you thinking it, I'm being obstinant ;)

You cannot know your clients until you get them.
You cannot get the type of details needed through standard stats/analysis approaches.
So how do you create a persona for a company?

Is this a guestimate type of thing - wishful thinking and general hedge-betting?

Or is there some clever knack of knowing the various demo's of the potential client types.
you could do it with pricing.... with angling the site wording towards certain social groups etc... I wouldn't say that is persona creation though... I'd say that is market targeting.

So please, help me out with this one, as I'm simply not able to see "how" this can be done without a large amoutn of time/effort/money and a fair degree of hope.

#22 cre8pc

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 07:32 PM

No real idea of the customers or their backgrounds.


If they have a physical store they do!

This is why I like the Eisenberg's approach, which is where they chunked up Internet behavior data, combined it with personality testing (such as Myers Briggs) and tossed in user testing data on existing sites. They've done the work for us.

So. All we need to do is understand how people like to use sites, to start with. Do they scroll? Do they wait 5 minutes to load images? Do they run at all black backgrounds? There's a ton of info on this for any web designer to get the shell down.

Then. If you've never sold a piece of chocolate before online or in a store, you start with you. What do you like/want/need/hope for? Where are you when you want it? Do you have a credit card? Will your spouse kill you if a box comes to the house that looks expensive?

You start with what you know. You talk to friends. You send up follow up surveys, coupons, feedback forms, etc. to everyone who bought something, and in exchange for their feedback, give them a discount on their next purchase.

Track the data. Get demographic info. Ask for details. You start to come up with a picture of different users.
They were always there, but now you have a better idea about them.

User your imagination. Take that and your data and personalities from FutureNow and sit down and write a story about someone who comes to your site. Are they married? Kids? On a budget? Love white chocolate? Love to surprise people with gifts? Are they a secretary who orders holiday gifts for the boss? Does she like cards with those orders? Did you consider her and do you have a way to include cards?

When you start to visualize who will come, you start to understand there are a zillion possibilties and one by one you can meet their needs. Start broad and sweeping. Whittle it down. Did you remember to consider the person who is hyperactive and can't sit still to read a lot of content online and LOVES candy? Who thinks of them?

I have a blast with this because I'm so curious. Yes, the folks at Cooper have this down to a science. I've seen their work. It's incredible. Detailed. Fills a need.

But. User testing with real people may be the more affordable option. It's limited to watching them in a fixed setting, rather than their home, office, street using their mobile device, etc. The information is used the same way though, by designers.

The goal is keep tweaking and keep aiming for customer satisfaction. If you have one user persona, and that user is you, that's a place to start. Not recommended...but if you analyze and really consider how you use the Web and where, you can start to ask...are there others like you? Not like you? Would never dream of clicking that red button because they're color blind?

Typically you have an end user in mind. It's a place to start. I like to play devils advocate with mine sometimes (like the woman buying muffler parts) because I know darned well the designers and stakeholders were likely men :hmmmm:

I also take giant leaps and risks. Once I had to come up with a teaching example user persona for a small airport that handled small aircraft for clients like corporate CEOs. I created one of a new young female secretary who has never had to book a flight for her boss before....faced with terms she didn't understand, and a boss who expected her to be efficient and accurate. Did the site help her with her task?

This is how user personas help :)

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 08:02 PM

Okay...

I'm going to assume, that as with marketing and advertising in general, there are resources that, for a sum, can be purchased that yeilds various bits of information on the general users out there - and these are sub-classed and defined in various behaviours etc.

We're talking sociology and communication reactions...?

When folk say "persona", I assume they do not mean "portrayal" or "individual" - they are in fact refering to user groups and perception/reaction types etc.?
(I seem to have become a real stickler for correct words :) )


So the optiosn are...
* fork out a large quantity of cash for various collected data that is classified, sorted, categories and measures seven ways from sunday...
* Fork out a moderate sum for feedback rewards and coalate data specific to existing clientle/customer base...
* Fork out a little and apply common sense...



I always work from the common factors through to the general archetypes... and avoid specifics as they tend to be incrediably narrow... (that said, I encouraged an estate agent to include things like School atchment areas and houses with disabled access etc.).


Well - I thik I'm not going to get to grips with this one, theres too much pos/neg on either side of the coin for to actually agree/disagree with any other it fully.

#24 AbleReach

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 08:05 PM

No real idea of the customers or their backgrounds.

If they have a physical store they do!


Or, if they keep any record of customer questions, complaints, comments, or really any sort of feedback at all.

Edited by AbleReach, 01 November 2007 - 08:06 PM.


#25 SEOcritique

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 01:08 AM

Wow, I just came across this conversation on personas and enjoyed reading everything. At our company we use personas extensively. In fact, Ian Laurie, our fearless leader, has written extensively about it on his blog. Here are some blatant link drops I think you will agree are appropriately relevant:


#26 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 07:20 AM

Alright... Now I've read through all of those....
It is Market Knowledge, right?

It is attempting to figure what your custom base will consist of, and appealing to their Needs/Wants/Desires.
This can be done without data to begin with as well... simply by "guessing" whilst hedging bets.... as you alrez\dy know some things about those most likely to be on your site.... they got there as something interested them...
They came in through SE - so they are looking for something specific.
They came in through Advert Links - so they are looking for something in general/specific.
They came in through a Media Link (article, review etc.) - So something may be of itnerest to them.
They came in through recommendation - so it could range from general interest to specific need.

Therefore, you would need to esnsure that as a minimum, you have a somewhat detailed set of info on the "landing page" they come in to.
You must also ensure that they can clearly see what is provided, and how to get it.


Once you start getting statistics, you can start tailoring to suit the higher perentages.
That is not necessarily those that come in the most, more likely to be those that purchase/contact the most, as this will increase returns instantly,rather than potentially.
Once you have targeted those that already buy/purchase/cotnact, and icreased that resposne rate, then you tackle the next group...either those that opt out, or those that don't seem to purchase.

Through all of that, you should be making contact with some of the clients/customers, so you can better a understanding of what people expect/want.
Then start tailoring towards those goals...


Is that kind of right?
(Hope so, otherwise I've misunderstood).


So the whole persona idea is basically adding a name and a little personal background to the general market sectors you target any way?
Is it possible this works for some people as it enables them to "interact" with something they now perceive as a person, rather than simply data?
I ask, as I don't see any real difference to the normal approaches any of us would take when tackling target markets etc....?

Edited by Autocrat, 02 November 2007 - 07:21 AM.


#27 DCrx

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 08:26 AM

Really you don't need a persona for guessing, or for traditional marketing based on data.

Personas can help you question basic assumptions. That is the real power of the persona.

Let's say you're getting traffic from a search term. Okay, those people might be coming in on a fairly generic or ambiguous search term. Whether you're searching for "widgets" or "copper plated boxcar prongs" that doesn't answer nearly as many questions about objectives. At best you might get a clue as to the immediate task.

Let's say traffic is coming in for backpacks. Okay, you know the term. ...then what? Let's make the term more specific -- backpacks for students.

Again ...so what? This tells you almost nothing about human motivations or desirability. Let's look at a persona.

Amy is looking for a backpack for her 14-year old son. She has been seeing news reports on how overloaded backpacks cause back problems and other injuries. Further, Amy knows her son doesn't want something "lame."

So, the immediate task is to find a backpack. But your persona allows you to step outside preconceptions. You know from this persona you should talk about ergonomics, perhaps rating backpacks on a scale or citing recommendations from health or parent groups for certain designs.

We're also talking about a secondary persona -- Amy's son Mike. Even if the backpack is right for Amy, she's buying for Mike. What a savvy designer would do is 1) Show Students wearing the backpack in a photo. 2) Get testimonials from the reference age group. 3) Allow comments where parents and students may make comments about their experience ....how kids got compliments from friends, etc.

Using personas to step outside your own shoes, you may test things it would never occur to test otherwise. You may find your keywords aren't right for the traffic you're trying to attract. You may find you have to put common items into backpacks because otherwise, the shopper has no sense of scale.

I'm constantly seeing sites which were never designed with any customer in mind, simply "the market."

Here's a discussion on 37signals, Showing the Plug, not the cable. Now I don't care how smart a marketer, showing the plug when everybody shows the cable just isn't an insight that comes out of the groupthink of assuming who your customer is from keyword analysis.

Everything about analytics shows you where you are, nothing shows you where you should or could go. Personas provide that.

I've done hundreds of critiques, and it's clear people need a lot of help looking at their site like the customer does. You don't need a persona to see that this much traffic is going to the site for certain kewords. You do need personas to understand these aren't the keywords you should be using, and by targeting you could be doing five times better than you are.

The broader implication here is that most marketing teams fail right at the beginning. They do not personalize their image of the market but go straight to some set of abstractions or number. What gets lost in the process, as we shall see, is any clear insight into the compelling reason to buy.

-- Geoffrey A. Moore Crossing The Chasm


Crossing The Chasm is probably the most famous marketing book nobody actually applies to what they are doing. Data is history. Personas are information tools, prescriptive and about the future.

Usually people gravitate towards overbroad keywords and unfocussed copy. Copywriters writing to a persona can find a different copy angle that works far better. Using a persona a marketer can understand there is no "the market" and focus on specific segments instead.

Looking at keywords, you see people are searching for blinds, and you put in some blinds, and people buy them. Looking from the point of view of a persona, you understand that person has a window, and you then put in a section on window treatments, and show "People who bought this also bought..." sections at the bottom of the page.

The result is people don't just buy blinds, and while everyone is struggling with a certain level of sales you're making several times as much because you didn't just give the customer exactly what they came for, you're anticipating.

The keyword may be "blinds" but that in no way means 30-40% of the people won't buy an entire window treatment.

Related:

Storyboards, Scenarios, Design Personas is my page on persona design. In actual practice, personas aren't treated like real tools. Most personas become the designer's imaginary friends. I suggest this is because personas aren't given an accompanying scenario. People have the assumptions, make the persona and then wonder what to do with it.

Too often they simply mold the persona into an "Elastic User" able to contort and do the most amazing backflips ....anything to make the preconceptions work.

You don't make the persona, check it off as "done" then file it away. You have to use the persona as a frame of reference for design decisions. They only way that gets done is to have the persona move through a scenario. Scenario development is why personas fail.

Edited by DCrx, 02 November 2007 - 08:52 AM.


#28 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 08:59 AM

Thank you - that made more sense.


So personas are simply a tool for some to examine the site from certain perspectives and in an attempt to facilitate needs/wants.


I must admit, I can see the use of such a tool being every bit as dangerous as not using it though - geting too carried away and going to narrow, or completely misjudging and creating personas that will never really use the site, misenterpreting user types and N/W/D etc. - all of these could cause more harm than good... then the same goes ofr anything really ;)

But all in all, I can now see why some folks use it.

#29 Adrian

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:12 AM

I must admit, I can see the use of such a tool being every bit as dangerous as not using it though - geting too carried away and going to narrow, or completely misjudging and creating personas that will never really use the site


That's been my worry ;)
And what I'm picking up from the thread generally is that avoiding that is part of the skill of creating personas in the first place, and why people who do it are able to charge a decent amount :)

I'm wondering, from those people who've delved deeper into the use of personas, do you think it's useful for a smallish company, interested in looking at this kind of approach, to start with relatively basic personas and see how they get on?
Then, as they go through the process, and hopefully start making changes and seeing some improvements, they can then feel more confident and knowledable about going into more depth with those personas.

Imagine a persona, called Adrian, interested in creating personas, but not confident of being able to go into the depth required straight away, and not really having enough data to build a really in depth persona anyway. He's wondering whether some lighter, more superficial personas would be a useful stepping stone to get more into the subject, and hopefully gain more data, or whether that could do more harm thatn good :)

A hypothetical persona, of course ;)

#30 DCrx

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:14 AM

I can see the use of such a tool being every bit as dangerous as not using it though - geting too carried away and going to narrow, or completely misjudging and creating personas that will never really use the site, misenterpreting user types and N/W/D etc. - all of these could cause more harm than good


Most sites build to personas, whether they know it or not.

The persona of the average business brochureware site: An employee of the company. They never go to competitor sites so never question a single sentence as trite, boring drivel. Their aren't interested in meaningful differentiation nearly as much as generic sameness. (In other words, someone who is never going to buy)

The persona the average software application is built to: A Vulcan (fictional Sci-Fi race of higly logical nonhumans) raised by a zen master who is also a programmer. Often, not just any programmer, but the programmer who built the app. Users have self-insight and logical thinking skills beyond mere humans. And they love to think about the developer's implementation model. (Also not a good target market)

The persona of the average ecommerce site: One task wonders with no larger objectives. They come to a site with one thing in mind and one thing only. Want to get into the site and out in the shortest possible time, could care less about value as they are only interested in price.

Just because they don't have the formal persona process doesn't mean there aren't preconceptions and assumptions which add up to a bizarre caricature which is the de facto persona.

It is entirely possible to estimate such pesonas from the design decisions in plain view on most sites and software.

De facto personas are arguably more damaging than the personas suggested here for one reason. Nobody questions the de facto stand-in for a persona. These constructs are employed for one goal: Maintain the site builder's comfort zone.

Edited by DCrx, 02 November 2007 - 09:35 AM.


#31 cre8pc

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:42 AM

Personas can help you question basic assumptions. That is the real power of the persona.


YES ;)

They can really open your eyes. I've written before (not in this thread), that my introduction to user personas was when the company I worked for spent $150,000 for 4 of them, for the purposes of a major redesign. They were delivered in a gigantic thick book format, and I was one of those who had to read it.

I was amazed at the detail. It was like reading a story about a day in the life of someone who was one of the targeted users.

Shockingly, however, the company chose to not use the user personas, or the redesign suggestions based on them. I never truly understood why other than project stakeholders felt the user personas and mockups were "off the mark". That was a huge amount of money to spend and not use.

Autocrat, you're digging in there and rightly so. Use personas aren't a magic pill. But they perform a vital service, esp. in situations where you might be dealing with stubborn stakeholders, or site owners with blinders on or inexperienced website designers.

I recommend reading all the resources in this and our other threads to anyone interested to get a good understanding and incorporate them, even on a basic level, into your practice. Certainly, we want to avoid stereotyping. Rather, use them to go beyond and stretch out.

The pay off is a site that serves and meets the needs of more people. We all know there are many rewards for this :)

#32 DCrx

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 10:05 AM

I never truly understood why other than project stakeholders felt the user personas and mockups were "off the mark".


In an era where you can build one page and A/B split test -- or a whole alternate site -- there is no excuse for this. Companies put up whole sites with separate domains for supporting an ad campaign.

A good guess is it was less painful to take the monetary loss than question basic assumptions about who they thought the user/customer was. Once you're beyond the basic introduction to persona level of objections, I find personas get ignored because it's just to much of a "cold shower moment" to dare test.

The myth is the data doesn't lie. Here's an example which explains how people generally use data the way a drunk uses an lamp post ...for support, not illumination.

Newspaper in the Northwest wonders why their reader base online is different from their print version. Data proves younger readers prefer the online version, not why. It would be far to convenient to assume older readers aren't familiar with the intertubes, and so on.

Nobody questioned the fact a 23 year old designer built the site. Turns out he set the font size -- fixed of course -- for something like ten point, close line spacing. Introducing a font control on the interface changed the data. Again, when you're not willing to question how the data go the way it is, you're not in the frame of mind to accept a persona that contradicts your assumptions. But just because there is data to support the status quo, in no way means that's the end all and be all of reality.

The real crux of the problem: People who don't understand data processing are calling themselves information workers.

There's a nice supporting article which could be used to explain persona based design Evidence-Based Management Doesn’t Mean Just Quantitative Evidence

Figures never lie. But liars very often use figures. A lot of these people are biased against qualitative evidence.

Edited by DCrx, 02 November 2007 - 10:12 AM.


#33 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 10:12 AM

So, in short, a Persona/Perspective/Outside view is meant to stop the designer/develoepr/site owner from missing things/making assumptions/having a narrow view.

Thats it.

It doesn't really matter if you are taking the view of;
* Those interested in Products XYZ from ABC Backgrounds and wanting it for GHI
* Jill, local plumber wanting something from an established manufacturer and wanting to find it fast.


It's merely using common sense and anything "known" to help ensure you cover all the bases and make sure you satisfy the N/W/D... not jsut for the item in itself, but how they find it, how they purchase it etc., without making the common and fatal mistake of "you" knowing how to do it and assuming they will.

???


If so, do people really make that sort of mistake that often?
I've sat down and thought about how people will want to use the site, the purpose of the site, how it can function, what the results should be and how the user will get those results.


I'll use a prime example - estate agents.
Most of those sites, including the big old "we'll list properties from 100's of estate agents"... have such dumb search criterias.
They follow thestandards without actually providing what a lot of folk really Want to know (they cover the base Needs only).
They list by Type, Price and general location.

They do not often enable searches on Internal Features (Cosnervatory, DoubleGlazing, Heating system etc.), External Features (Garage, Parking allotment, etc.), or location stuff (in/near/away from Town/City/Countryside, bus route, main road, shops etc.), or schools, medical facilities, rivers, sea etc.

Yet that is what some people are really Wanting to know - those are the things that help decide whether you buy the property or not.


Is that the sort of thing that "persona" help fix?

[EDIT]
...DCrx...
I think you jsut hit the nail on the head for me ;)
It's the usage of Quantitative and Qualitative measures.
If you do not provide Quality to your users, you will loose out.

The only way to really proivde such quality is to understand/know your user/target/market as best you can, and do whatever you can to make their life easier/better.

Edited by Autocrat, 02 November 2007 - 10:16 AM.


#34 Chopsticker

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 10:12 AM

cre8pc observed:
> They can be surprisingly detailed. So detailed, in fact,
> that they may seem like someone you know.

Here's an anecdote to illustrate just how real a well-designed persona can feel. This is from my chapter titled "Design vs. Marketing Personas" in The Persona Lifecycle by Pruitt and Adlin. And believe it or not, this actually happened just as I describe...!

--------------

Near the end of a client project, I visited some family and caught up with a cousin who I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. In a surprising coincidence, her current job put her squarely in the potential user community of the piece of software I was designing at the time, even though the market was highly specialized. She was naturally curious, so I showed her the primary persona that had guided our design efforts to date.

She read it over in silence, though her face registered an array of interesting expressions along the way. When finished, she put it down and gave me a sideways glance. “Whoa. This is sort of creepy,” she chuckled. “It’s almost a perfect description of a guy who works across the room from me. This could be him!”

It’s not often you get such validation, so I was of course pleased. But it also occurred to me that this way of packaging up customer insight was clearly powerful. Not only did it capture the complexities of our potential users, but it did so in an easily-understood and compelling manner.

Both designers and marketers face a growing need for rich, multi-dimensional tools for getting to know customers more intimately. Personas have some noticeable advantages over traditional methods, as their faces and stories remind us that we’re selling to real people, not nameless “targets”. They can play an active role in shaping not only a product’s behavior, but the very relationship of its customers to the brand.

--------------

BTW, you'll find other resources about personas on my blog, including an example that you can download.

#35 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 10:25 AM

...Chopsticker...
Thats nice - and darn well useful!
(Hi and welcome by the way ;))

My question is this though...
You just about perfectly captured the chap across the room - so you know that you should get the result you want from that person - what about your cousing though?
Would she take it up... or anyone else in that workplace?
Waht about a similar company down the road... would you finely tuned persona work for those folk as well... more than jsut one of them?

To my mind, getting a Persona so damn fine means you maybe missing a large number of others.
Though it may be "better" in many ways to have a narrower persona... once you get so fine, you will be missing so many others out.

Prime examples include use of colours for responsiveness - bang goes those with colour-vision issues, or those that dislike that colour (I hate Yellow/Orange... and ignore anything with those!).
Another fine example is clever wording for Links - no good to those that dislike being told what to do... I've known people who simple ignore links that contain things like "go here", "click this" "read this"... as they do not think "you" should be telling them what to do.


I think there is a fine line... or even several lines, some quite ch8unky infact, as to the user-types, and what they are after...
I'm thinking of Vent Grids - If the wholes are to large, almsot everything will pass through them - to small and virtually bugger all will get to what you need.



Sorry if I seem to be such a sod for this - I actually find the idea appealing and intruiging - jsut not 100% of the "safety values" in it, as with everything else, it uses a fair degree of guessing/estimating, and can do both good and harm.
Getting it right means wonderful results, mass increaszes in returns and satasifaction of users - getting it wrong, or to damn right may result in a lot of loss etc.

I've had a look around, and I cannot find any reference to it "not working", due to being too good - the only results are those that got it "wrong"... not why it was wrong, which is also worrying.

Edited by Autocrat, 02 November 2007 - 10:27 AM.


#36 bwelford

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 11:25 AM

Welcome to the forums, Chopsticker. :wave:

It struck me that the best persona would be representative of the ideal user in a user test. So a possible way to run the development process would be to contact typical users early in the process and seek their cooperation. With say half a dozen of these people, you would then develop the persona descriptions for each of them. These persona descriptions would then be used to guide the website development.

Once you had a workable prototype of the website, you could then run user tests with this small sample of individuals. The feedback you received in these tests would be a valuable learning experience for how well the personas had contributed to the website development.

Clearly this sample of individuals will have been highly sensitized to the web site development process. So you might need to instruct them to "dumb down" and try to imagine coming to the website like any other they might visit. This is the downside. The upside is that you have a tight linking of real users with the personas.

Could this be a practical procedure?

Edited by bwelford, 02 November 2007 - 11:52 AM.


#37 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 11:49 AM

Well that would be "user testing" wouldn't it - during and after initial development.
It would also require you to actually "know" some of your target market - not always an easy task for new/startups.

Still, nice idea and I reckon worth while.

#38 cre8pc

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 12:23 PM

For those who hate personas...

Ask 37signals: Personas?

We don’t use personas. We use ourselves. I believe personas lead to a false sense of understanding at the deepest, most critical levels.

Every product we build is a product we build for ourselves to solve our own problems. We recognize our problems aren’t unique. In fact, our problems are probably a lot like your problems. So we bundle up the solutions to our problems in the form of web-based software and offer them for sale.

We recognize not everyone shares our problems, our point of view, or our opinions, but that verdict’s the same if you use personas. Making decisions based on real opinions trumps making decisions based on imaginary opinions.


This may work for them, but it's not fair to companies who must contract out for programming. Do those sub-contractors read minds?

And don't get me going on how many software companies that design believing "People will just LOVE this!"

and then learn they were dead wrong.

#39 Adrian

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 12:45 PM

Heh, well yes, if you're building something to fix your own problem, then there doesn't seem much need for personas. but fi you're trying to solve someone elses problems, what do you do then?

I stopped reading the 37 Signals blog a while ago. I don't get the impression they understand that not everyone is in the same position as them in the way they are able to go about things. Their way is the best way, and if you're not doing it that way, well, there must be something wrong with you. Even if your circumstances are completely different.
Oh, and their gushing about the iPhone a while ago really put me off :)

#40 DCrx

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 01:01 PM

Unfortunately there is a gray area. And that is when you think your customer is just like you, but they really aren't.

We considered ourselves to be good all-around developers: competent in both interface and back-end development. We also assumed we were developing our product (called “Pyra” for lack of a better name at the time) for people just like us, so we could make assumptions based on our wants and extrapolate those desires for all users.

....In our case, the development of personas helped us recognize that the target audience we’d chosen, web development teams, wasn’t as homogenous as we first assumed. Not everyone who’s involved in web development is gaga for DHTML or CSS—some people on the team might not even know what those acronyms stand for, a simple fact we’d failed to consider up until this point.

-- Taking the "You" Out of User: My Experience Using Personas


Either way, the Pyra team was using personas. The only difference is they moved from building a software app to the persona of a programmer with a dozen excuses for not using a persona. Also not the user, and a common error software companies prefer to accept.

The real problem with personas is, if you accept the persona view and change something, with every change people think they're admitting to some kind of mistake. The ego can't take it.

Then, of course, they release the code in public and the mistakes open to critique from user forums to magazine reviewers to trumpet to the heavens. Of course, now the die is cast, the developers dig in their heels and pick apart the critiques.

This is also part of the persona the companies that don't use personas build to.

Edited by DCrx, 08 November 2007 - 01:06 PM.




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