Personas (was Re: Powerpoint vs. "regular" slides)

25 Jan 2005 - 2:47pm
9 years ago
3 replies
551 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

Andrei was saying that Personas are not good for many reasons. But he was
implying that Personas somehow are a replacement for observation, interview,
and other forms of direct (and indirect) contact research with end-users and
customers.

Andrei, I don't quite get it. Personas don't replace research, but rather
they are one possible tool of many for modeling research. I cannot speak for
the creators and teachers of personas at all, and to be quite honest I don't
use them that much, but I have seen many different modeling techniques like
personas used by other design disciplines.

You spoke about Ind. Des. And the modeling technique I was taught from there
was photo-collage, where the designer would go and pluck pictures that they
felt represented the audience. Could be pictures of them, their fashion,
their environment (homes, offices, entertainment choices), but still to me
not that different from the narrative version of a persona.

In my mind there are many ways to model research, but you are right that
doing the research is important. I do think that many people jump into
personas w/o doing the real work. I think that the assumption of Personas is
that you did the research. Of course you can skip the research and do the
personas based off of your gut, or off of customer (not user) input, but
then it just isn't as powerful a tool.

I also think that Andrei is right in saying that Personas as a model are a
starting point for design, and don't actual directly contribute to the craft
that needs to go into the design. I know that Goal-directed design does have
steps to help with task analysis after personas, but seldom do you hear
these tasks spoken about on these lists and so it looks like "magic" happens
between personas and design.

-- dave

David Heller
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixdg.org
dave at ixdg.org
dave at synapticburn.com
AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com

Comments

25 Jan 2005 - 3:14pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 25, 2005, at 11:47 AM, David Heller wrote:

> Andrei was saying that Personas are not good for many reasons. But he
> was
> implying that Personas somehow are a replacement for observation,
> interview,
> and other forms of direct (and indirect) contact research with
> end-users and
> customers.

The problem is this: Often, a single member of the team will be asked
to do the research, then they write-up the persona and hand it off to
the team. Maybe they'll give a presentation. The point is, it tends to
cycle into a process where the designer making design decisions has
been removed from the research part because someone else on the team
did it for them.

This is also compounded when others on the team are also one step
removed from the research process, like engineers and product managers.
The persona becomes a crutch that winds up creating separation from
users and the designers in this process. I've seen it happen way too
often. And like I said before, I've yet to see a good product result
from that sort of process.

> Andrei, I don't quite get it. Personas don't replace research, but
> rather
> they are one possible tool of many for modeling research.

Indeed. But on top of becoming bastardized with fake photos and phony
backstories, they have also become a deliverable that as far as I can
tell, remove too many people on the team one more step away from
customers. As noted above.

> You spoke about Ind. Des. And the modeling technique I was taught from
> there
> was photo-collage, where the designer would go and pluck pictures that
> they
> felt represented the audience. Could be pictures of them, their
> fashion,
> their environment (homes, offices, entertainment choices), but still
> to me
> not that different from the narrative version of a persona.

Yup. I encourage any and all research techniques that engage designers
in that way. Making a collage like that is fun, educational and
engaging for the designer. Personas tend to become a chore on the
projects I've seen them used. Asking a designer to create a collage
engages them in a way that brings out better ideas for design. Asking a
designer to write a document that basically elaborates on what should
be a small set of key data points is largely a waste of time and kills
creativity. It winds up becoming busy work.

All my "personas" tend to be a very simple set of data points. No
photos, no backstory. Just a few key data points about the customer.
The rest I get from active research that I do personally, like I
mentioned in a previous email.

> In my mind there are many ways to model research, but you are right
> that
> doing the research is important. I do think that many people jump into
> personas w/o doing the real work. I think that the assumption of
> Personas is
> that you did the research. Of course you can skip the research and do
> the
> personas based off of your gut, or off of customer (not user) input,
> but
> then it just isn't as powerful a tool.

Agreed.

> I also think that Andrei is right in saying that Personas as a model
> are a
> starting point for design, and don't actual directly contribute to the
> craft
> that needs to go into the design. I know that Goal-directed design
> does have
> steps to help with task analysis after personas, but seldom do you hear
> these tasks spoken about on these lists and so it looks like "magic"
> happens
> between personas and design.

The issue I had was when Robert mentioned: "[personas] provide a means
of measuring design success at many points along the process."

I have no earthly idea how a document created from research that
shouldn't be more than a simple set of notes can translate into a
measure of success, unless that document is somehow more than a
research tool. And that's the problem in my eyes.

Andrei

25 Jan 2005 - 3:26pm
Dave Malouf
2005

On 1/25/05 3:14 PM, "Andrei Herasimchuk" <andrei at involutionstudios.com>
wrote:

> The problem is this: Often, a single member of the team will be asked
> to do the research, then they write-up the persona and hand it off to
> the team. Maybe they'll give a presentation. The point is, it tends to
> cycle into a process where the designer making design decisions has
> been removed from the research part because someone else on the team
> did it for them.
>
> This is also compounded when others on the team are also one step
> removed from the research process, like engineers and product managers.
> The persona becomes a crutch that winds up creating separation from
> users and the designers in this process. I've seen it happen way too
> often. And like I said before, I've yet to see a good product result
> from that sort of process.

Well, this is just a process flaw, no? I mean my training in both contextual
inquiry and in goal-directed design both stress x-functional involvement in
the research process.

This to me is the main point ... If you do personas w/o doing the rest of
goal-directed design (or similar methods) you might as well not do them.
People come up w/ "discount" methods for the user of personas and apply them
to new total methodologies, but my understanding of them is that they are
most valuable and most useful to the PLP (product lifecycle process; not
just design) as a piece of a greater coherent whole.

Now to what you think the "issue" is:
> The issue I had was when Robert mentioned: "[personas] provide a means
> of measuring design success at many points along the process."

Hmm? Well personas that I have used and seen can be one element of doing
measurement throughout the process. I think we need to define "success" to
really understand it. But I do think that personas can be a good reflecting
board for team-members to see if they "hit the mark" in terms of design and
implementation (and fulfillment, etc.). Now is that measuring ROI? Of course
not, but I think that success has many levels and requires many different
thermometers.

-- dave

25 Jan 2005 - 3:33pm
Greg Petroff
2004

I am struggling with personas but I think what's lost in adrei's discussion
is the modeling process. I think the process of defining a persona can help
you to validate your research and look for things that might not be
obvious within it. I have found things that we needed to design for using
them that were very important that I would have missed had we not created
them. Narative can be a design process of organizing information and
learning to see things much like pencil and paper. They are really good at
helping to define what problem you are trying to solve.

greg

Gregory Petroff
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mobile 646 387 2841

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