Persona Workshops

12 Oct 2009 - 9:09am
5 years ago
7 replies
3007 reads
Jan Srutek

Hi all,

I was wondering if someone would have any ideas for running an
'interesting and entertaining' workshop where the client reps will
be involved in the process of creating personas.

Thanks a lot for any thoughts or ideas on that.



13 Oct 2009 - 7:45am
Chris Avore

I'd be careful about organizing a workshop where your clients/client
reps assist in creating personas.

if such a workshop is the first step in creating these personas (i.e.
you haven't been able to perform any interviews, observations, etc.),
you open yourself up to creating personas that aren't founded on any
research and will be based on your client assumptions and prejudices.

Obviously, you need to have client feedback to help guide what
you're looking for and what they'll sign off on, but you could
quickly see the workshop dive into a morass of people picking out a
names for the persona's three cats and what color their Vespa is
when such information isn't critical to what reflects real user

So no, I don't have any ideas about how to run such a workshop, but
I'd caution you to tread carefully if you do...

Hope that helps--

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Posted from the new

13 Oct 2009 - 1:59pm
Audrey Crane

Following up on Chris' comment, with which I wholeheartedly agree,
I've had some success with the following (assuming that you've
conducted and recorded your research):
1. require all attendees to watch or listen to at least 1/3 of your
interviews (or they'll be skewed)
2. have them note key takeaways
3. bring their key takeaways, along with your probably more
fastidious notes about goals, motivations and behaviors for each
interviewee to the workshop (also bring transcripts or detailed
4. chart the key takeaways against one another with sticky notes on
white boards or giant stickies (so you'll create scales for sets of
related takeaways, like married or single, loves technology or hates
it, only probably more complicated than these examples)
5. fill in points for each interview against each scale where you
have information
6. add your own scale and info too
7. look at these for patterns, those patterns resolve into skeletal
8. give them a few details, like name and gender
9. ask them to prioritize those (probably this is something only they
can do, you can't except to make recommendations)

Then you'll have prioritized skeletal personas that you can take
away and apply any additional diligent review or analysis, and fill
in all the details (which will need reviewed and revised of course)
and document them.

I really like "The User is Always Right" by Steve Mulder with Ziv
Yaar, which has some specific and concrete analytical methods that
might give you some other ideas. (

Two key rules of thumb: You need to keep participants limited or it
will get out of hand. Requiring that they watch more interviews is a
way to help with that. And you have to stay on your toes and not
expect things to go exactly according to script, because they
assuredly won't. If you're not comfortable with that and don't
have a pretty solid background and alternative ideas, you could end
up painted into a corner with no way out in front of a room full of
clients. It's not easy.

Good luck!

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Posted from the new

14 Oct 2009 - 7:23am
Sam Menter

> Hi Jan
> I've done this a few times, and one thing that worked quite well was
> getting the team to draw up personas, stick them up on the wall, then all go
> around and add post-its to other people's with their comments.
> Make sure you have plenty of data for them to work from - run through
> demographic stats, any qualitative research you have, any quantitative
> stuff. Without the supporting data, it will probably fall apart!
> Quick ice breaker to introduce them to the session - give them a piece of
> paper and ask them to draw the person next to each other. They all do this
> and then start apologising and laughing. This worked well, but I can't claim
> to have invented it - check out Tim Brown's video on TED:
> Also good post here on Boxes and Arrows:
> Don't stop at personas, move onto tasks and get the team to start process
> mapping some top level interactions related to the personas.
> Have fun!
> All the best
> Sam


Pixel Thread Ltd
Spike Design,
133 Cumberland Road,
Bristol, BS1 6UX

Tel: 07985 979 852

14 Oct 2009 - 9:41am
Jan Srutek

Thanks everyone for all the suggestions, ideas, and tips! Much

Chris: absolutely agree. We definitely conducted research beforehand,
the workshop was mainly to valide some of the findings and to get
clients more involved.

Audrey: good idea to let the client listed to the interviews,
there's nothing more powerful than hearing user's frustrations from
the user herself.
Also, the idea of having scales for persona's dimensions is a good
one. I prefer it to having just the extremes - e.g. Privacy
fundamentalist vs. Privacy unconcerned.

Other people sent me emails suggesting:
- employing collaborative affinity diagramming,
- using 'nudies' (hand drawn characters) and creating collages from
magazine pictures
- making the clients to use the personas in scenarios (using
storyboards) to help them visualize the user needs, behaviours, and

On running the workshops
- the workshop can start with an icebreaker - e.g. 'draw the person
next to you'
- design games can be used, Sam Menter sent me a good link on that:

And seems like the book 'The Persona Life Cycle' by Adlin and
Pruett is a must-read on the subject.

Finally, the key takeaway with regards to personas seems to be not
cutting corners on user research, but making sure it has been done
thoroughly and rigorously.

Our workshop went well, the biggest success was that we really
managed to get the client reps involved in the project much more, and
that they spent time thinking about the real users. They also seemed
to have enjoyed the workshop, and I hope our relationship with them
has been strenghtened.

Thanks again

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Posted from the new

16 Oct 2009 - 1:26pm
Audrey Crane

FWIW, I would definitely recommend Mulder's book over Adlin's. They
are both useful, but if you only have time for one, the former is
shorter and more specific and to the point.

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Posted from the new

18 Oct 2009 - 12:19pm
William Hudson

I've just been on Adlin and Pruit's personas course at NNG Usability
Week (while I was teaching a couple of courses there). Their book (The
Persona Lifecycle) is much more than just personas - it's a technique
for user-centred design based on personas. So it depends on what you
need. If it is just how to create personas, there are lots of useful
references (including several good web pages on the subject). But if you
want to know what to do with them after you've got them, I would not
hesitate to recommend Adlin and Pruit.


William Hudson
Syntagm Ltd
Design for Usability
UK 01235-522859
World +44-1235-522859
US Toll Free 1-866-SYNTAGM
mailto:william.hudson at

Syntagm is a limited company registered in England and Wales (1985).
Registered number: 1895345. Registered office: 10 Oxford Road, Abingdon
OX14 2DS.

Ajax Design and Usability Course, Berlin:

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at
[mailto:discuss-bounces at] On Behalf Of
Sent: 16 October 2009 12:27 PM
To: discuss at
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Persona Workshops

FWIW, I would definitely recommend Mulder's book over Adlin's. They
are both useful, but if you only have time for one, the former is
shorter and more specific and to the point.

25 Oct 2009 - 5:46am
Jan Srutek

Catriona Lohan-Conway pointed out to me that those run great

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