Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Personas vs. User Descriptions; Apples vs. Tomatoes

Difference between personas and user descriptions ...

"The always intriguing Christopher Fahey commented on yesterday’s post about Crappy Personas vs. Robust Personas:

Personas provide a fabulous way for people who understand their audience/users to communicate their understanding to people who do not understand that audience in a rapid and meaningful way. They are also a great way for people who have different understandings of their target audience (users, customers, etc) to reach common ground on who they are designing for, particularly if the objective is to expand into new audiences rather than simply to serve an existing audience. Neither of these uses of personas requires any original actual hard field research to be done. All it takes is a few good conversations and collaborations around a white board, and a little running around to gather existing documentation.

In my mind, Christopher is clearly confusing Personas with User Descriptions. User descriptions are what-we-think-we-know-now writeups of who uses our design and why. Personas, on the other hand, are carefully researched and crafted personalities we create to focus the design energy.

I believe both are very useful in the design process. User descriptions help us see where our thinking is, help new team members come up to speed, and help us identify where we may have made assumptions that could turn out false. Personas helps us get past the this-design-is-for-every-breathing-being problem and help us focus our attention on the needs of three to seven specific individuals. Many teams regularly do both.

That said, I think confusing them would be a bad idea. It’s akin to using the term apple when talking about a tomato. They both are fruits, round, red, and have seeds in the middle. Yet, someone thinking they are getting an apple is going to be very disappointed on that first bite if they received a tomato instead (and vice versa)."    (Continued via UIE Brain Sparks)    [Usability Resources]


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