Who's using Personas?

Anyone using end-user Persona’s in a big way in their design process?

If so, are you doing it the Cooper way, or have you tweaked it?

good topic cg-
We have barely begun using persona building methods, similar to the Cooper style you mentioned. But, we have also realized that our Use Case Scenarios are much more important. Our users vary in age slightly, so that is something to focus on. And, there are other attributes such as training and workstyle. We’ve mapped out our users in basic ways, MDs, Subacute caregivers, Rts, Biomeds, staff managers, patients. but, more can and should be done.

What I’d love to do is create a ‘lab’ environment to watch users work, (not a clinical study lab, but like a stage set for HF evaluation) outside of the hospital setting, where regulation, HIPPA, and policy does not get in the way of observing how caregivers actually work…I wish there was a way to…hey… wait a minute…(shot of lighbulb over designer’s head)

Steve Wilcox of Design Science is famous for bringing video ethnography into clinical environments. It can be done within HIPPA constraints. Wouldn’t it be better if we had the same access that med students do? ie. Participate in rounds?

I’m bummed out that this topic didn’t take off since I posted it. I recognize that not many Industrial Designers appear to be practicing Interaction design, but Personas are just as useful to user-centered Product Design. What gives people?? Is it all just footwear and automotive styling around here?

It would be great to ride shotgun with a caregiver all day. I’ve been able to do a tiny bit of this. (but not yet able to visually document it) I’ve found also that caregivers are very positive towards it once you invlove them in the learning process.

I’ve used persona exercises in previous jobs (in annotated ways) to help define visual themes to fit user’s/consumer’s interest. It seems they should be used often, especially in the shoe industry, closely linked to fashion…or in the auto industry…
maybe we should move this to another board?

Unfortunately I think that a lot of us don’t have the experience using personas AND the ability to sell enough of the process involved with designing for them. I think they fall into the same category as design research with regard to justifying the cost to the client. I would love for someone to prove me wrong about this. I think that a vast majority of the industry is relegated to design that is barely a step deeper or more involved than styling.

User-centered design is great, but a lot of clients are focused soley on Walmart-buyer-centered design.

I aggree with you Nate, it’s a ‘service’ that needs to be sold. If done well, it is a transpernt exercise that is transparent to the client, but incorporated into the design process. AND, I also think that awareness for these tools is increasing.

It is very important to recognise that clients DO look at how consulting firms come to the conclusions they present. At the least, these tools should be employed informally by designers in thier process. At most, it is an integral part of the scpoe of work, with actionable results. And, Ultimately, supporting a stronger reputation for designers in that the final deliverable is not fluff, but measurable and salient to management level players.

When used in house, Design research is tough to bake into schedules, and again we need to do a better job at ‘selling’ the need for our tools, just as other disiplines do.


My team is making use of personas as part of a scenario based design process. Its been my experience that the scenarios themselves tend to drive most of the design decisions while the personas are of general interest until the real horse trading about design decisions begins. It has been my experience that personas are a little too touchy feely to survive long with our engineers, while scenarios offer concrete use cases where they tend to feel more at home.

Within the lab here, my team tried the full Cooper-esque technique, another team tried a scenario approach that only dealt with small tactical tasks and another tried a compromise with limited emphasis on personas. Unsurprisingly the compromise got more traction; the full Cooper’s approach was a bit too different / difficult to fit into our development process while the tactical approach didn’t really make a big enough impact. I presented a paper on this topic at HCII this year, if anyone is interested message me and I’ll dig up a copy.

we use personas every day. my product is fortunate because we’ve targeted our product so explicitly at a single persona, so everything we do is about our persona. We’ve given him a name, he’s got a picture that everyone knows exactly who he is. We know everything about this guy, to every last detail. The best part is that we say to our Usability engineer “go find some John Taylors”, and he actually easily brings us several people who fit our persona to bring in for testing.

Design decicsions are so much easier to make, and there’s much less debate about feature design… we just know our customer (persona), and test our software with customers who match that persona. Its all about testing… dont think you know what your persona really wants - make sure you ask them!

One of the misconceptions I’ve seen around Personas as that they are a research method - this is slightly off target. Personas, user profiles and similar are the outputs of research.

Research can be conducted through observation, ethnography, interviews, etc. and Personas may be a useful way of summarizing the key information that comes out of such research, but they are an ends, not a mean. Personas are limited as a subsitute for research, but good for driving research (e.g. figuring out who you want to observe or test).

There are cases where the same research may be documented as requirements or just rolled right into the design of a product or interface during a design activity.

One of the misconceptions I’ve found is that people think personas map to roles. In fact, one role may be described by several personas and this can only be determined in affinity mapping following primary research.

PS; Alan Coopers “About Face 2.0” covers how to create personas (the first ed does not, so you should “upgrade.”)

Indeed, and one persona may map to many roles.

i use personas and scenarios in conjunction with contextual research in every design project. they dont take much time to accomplish and provide a wealth of knowledge and if nothing else they add to the ammount of work you present to your client. i think the single most important thing that personas and scenarios accomplish is just to escape from your own desires and focus on somone else’s. persona’s can also help a lot when answering questions when people ask you those annoying why’s you can say “john” or “jane” wanted it this way.