Personas in the design process – good or bad?

Some interesting points about the use (or maybe mis-use) of personas in the design process.  Short version – the author is not a fan and does not use them.  I generally disagree.  I find personas useful.  His points are very good – personas can be an excuse to limit contact with users, can mask developers’ misunderstandings, prejudices and assumptions, are not always based on data, and can create tunnel vision.

Are personas ruining your product?

I explained that placing the user at the heart of those types of conversations is exactly what we do, too. Yet, in my experience personas are mostly made up and not reliable. And in the rare occasion that they are based on research, there simply isn’t enough research to make them valid. So they’re filled with massive assumptions to fill the gaps.

In my view the article provides good guidelines to estimate how effectively you are using personas; distilled into some questions:

  • Are the personas derived from as much data and experience as feasible: user interviews, task analyses, data, models?
  • Are the limitations of existing interviews, data and models understood?
  • Does the design team challenge any assumptions made in creating personas?
  • Are the limitation of personas understood through the design process?
  • Are testing methods (prototype evaluation, usability studies) used to validate assumptions and update the personas?



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