Saturday, June 14, 2008

Persona Creation: Beyond Fake Personas

The validity of personas ...

"Glen Drummond, Partner at Quarry Integrated Communications posed the question to me recently, “If personas are fictional, how do you tell when a persona is fake?” This great question highlights concerns about persona quality, validity, and usefulness that our clients often raise and that many persona thought leaders have addressed (Adele Revella, Jared Spool, Steve Mulder, Kim Goodwin, and others).

At Goal Centric, my partner Tony Zambito and I have developed a scale of persona quality for our B2B clients. It is based primarily on the depth of ethnographic research behind the persona, whether quantitative research supports those qualitative findings, and whether the persona can actually help its audience. I’ll start at the low end and ascend to the highest quality persona.

Persona Sketch

A Persona Sketch is a persona profile that you create off the top of your head based on what you think you know about customers, thanks to either personal experience or long tenure inside your industry. You complete this sketch in about 15 minutes. It is the equivalent of the proverbial “napkin drawing”; slightly stained with coffee and wadded up in your pocket. In other words, it may be a good beginning persona creation exercise for you personally, but you should never pass it around at work.

When you conduct internal stakeholder interviews, you will bump up against your coworkers’ latent persona sketches. These are the assumptions and biases that people in your company hold about customers. Part of your job as you go about your persona creation project is to first uncover and then either validate or disqualify your company’s de facto persona sketches.

Persona Hypothesis

A Persona Hypothesis isn’t a persona at all; it is a rough outline (often in list form) of the customer goals and patterns you expect to encounter in your field work. After you have completed internal stakeholder interviews and internal research interviews, you have enough information to create a Persona Hypothesis. But, true to good scientific methodology, you create this hypothesis with the intention of trying to disprove it out in the field.

A Persona Hypothesis may be more rigorous than a Persona Sketch, but is never an end deliverable. We only ever show clients our persona hypotheses as one of many steps in the process toward Robust Personas, a process which everyone understands will include ethnographic field work and analysis."    (Continued via Persona Creation, infoDesign)    [Usability Resources]

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