The Future of Personas

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Take a look at our talk on the Future of Personas from the Future of Web Design Conference 2012

Take a look at our talk on the Future of Personas from the Future of Web Design Conference 2012

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  • Hello Everyone! My name Julia Sloan – thank you for coming, I’m very excited to be here. So– just out of curiosity, how many of you in here have made or been apart of making a persona?Today we’re going to talk about something we all know very well- PERSONAS. More specifically the future of personas and how they might need to change to be relevant in years to come. And a disclaimer- not everything I’m going to say today is a fact or certainty but questions and topics to (hopefully) get this discussion going.
  • There is one question I’m sure every person in this room would have a different answer to– and that is what is a persona? Well, to show you what I think a person is and to introduce myself– I whipped one up…Currently I work as a UX Designer at Motivate Design - a small consultancy based here in NYC, went to Parsons School of Design, which is where I was introduced to the concept of personas. Personas and I have had a long and not always pleasant relationship– they were a required part of everything business plan, product idea, presentation, almost everything --- and (sorry to my amazing parsons professors) I hated making them. I understood why they wanted us to make them – but It always felt a little useless and awkward to be talking about what David eats for lunch….
  • but getting down to to the barebones- a persona is supposed to be a snapshot of a PERSON –They help us to think of the people on the other end of whatever we’re creating, not a customer or even a user but a real-life human
  • So WHY DO WE USE PERSONAS –When I started developing this talk I reached out to several people I admire in our industry and asked them exact question.I got a lot of different answers- but after hearing what everyone had to say, this seemed to be the consensus – to keep users at the center of the design process and to help facilitate a conversationWhy does this matter? Why do we keep spending so much time and $ making these?As a designer, it is easier than I’d like to say to design for yourself – resulting in what has been coined “ego-centric designs”BUT a question I constantly have --does a good designer need Personas to guide them? I have a feeling Mr. Steve Jobs didn’t reference them every time he made a design decision…I strongly feel that a vital characteristic of a good designer is that they instinctly empathize with other people…. 
  • I think it’s time to ask WHY –something we did all the time when we were little and I don’t know why we ever stopped--WHY are we making these?WHY do we make them the way we do? Is there a better way? WHY do we spend so much money and time making them ? Does the value they add to the design measure up?Innovation happens when we question our surroundings, when we don’t just accept what’s considered the standard
  • Now I’m not saying personas have no value:I think they provide usstrategy to shape and move forward with our designsstructure to breakdown large user groupsand a story to engage listenersA persona should become someone designers feel they "know" and can refer back to throughout the design process– but are they getting the job done? Are they doing users justice?
  • Bottom line: Telling stories is human nature – And personas are meant to be a an easy method of sharing– like illustrations orcliffs notesThey help us synthesize and communicate information across groups that otherwise would fall between the cracks
  • one question I constantly have --- Is how do personas keep up? what about moods?Isn’t a persona is useless are if they only represent a moment in time. As people, we all change over time.every day, week, month, year we go through things that shape and change who we are and what we care about
  • SEE’s govern the direction of change throughout an experience (e.g. meta-mood) ex. anticipating marriage, just had a baby, just lost a parent, new job, etc.That’s going to affect almost every aspect of my life…which would result in an incredibly persona than you all saw at the beginning of this presentation. And to make it even more complicated:Within these meta-moods smaller, less-intense moods and emotions ex. getting married (meta-mood lasting months); wedding dress delivered with tailoring mistakes (mood lasting days); confused by sewing machine (mood lasting hours) causes anger (mood lasting minutes) and then I remember the 24 hr tailor next door that can fix the dress (resulting experience)So the difference of an interaction like this vs. my standard dry cleaning drop-off is incredibly significant What I would need as a “user” to feel satisfied with my experience is completely different.
  • And Mood regulation is something we are seeing in more and more designs today– keeping the users in a good mood is a valuable design goal, no one wants and angry userThis concept of mood regulation is actually rooted in product design, however these two worlds (product and digital) are slowly converging, as we get used to these multi-dimensional interactions:experiences that include, online, offline, in print, on our phones, on our tablets, or in person– and you know what? I’m not sure if personas are successfully accounting for how users’ needs change with different moods and environmentsMoods tend be more complex than emotions-Moods last longer than emotions ("less easily observed and measured because events can't be linked to moods, unlike emotion") And Moods can heavily impact customer loyalty and satisfaction. 
  •  More and more digital products and sites are tapping in to moods as a design goal:Either coloring an existing mood & contributing to one, or forming oneOne Example I have here is the getty images’ moodstream:As users adjust the settings marking their current mood getty offers imagery and music to match
  • One UX Expert I spoke with had some very interesting points about this and the so called “god-father” of personas. He's at pains to avoid personas that can be morphed. He want's personas to be fixed so that designers can't twist them out of shape to justify any possible decision. If personas are fluid, you'll need to (a) avoid undermining their credibility as a decision making tool (b) figure out when to update them and make the frequency and content of the updates clear to designers (c) look at what hasn't changed - perhaps the constants are more important.”
  • Personas should represent a user as he or she progresses through a journey, changingwithin contexts, For example, if a persona only accounts for a customer as they shop for pantsfor themselves, it doesn't represent that same customer as they shop for someone else, or shop with their child, or shop without a specific goal (entertainment shopping), or pay their bill, or get help, or do any of this on the street with their phone
  • One theory I have--- is as "design-thinking" and processes are gaining more traction in big-businesses, a more analytical/conservative group of minds is interacting and coming face-to-face with personas. This results in a skewed understanding of what personas are; a design TOOL, not an oracle or rulebook. They are not black and white. I see designers and researchers (myself included) getting questions from stakeholders like "What font would _____ want?" or "Would ______ prefer if this was blue or green?" Users don't know what they want. We can't look to personas to answer specific questions that designers should be solving.  We can look to them to ask what drives _____. So we can imagine what they might like to some extent. BUT I want to ask you all….What happens if personas die? I want you all to Imagine a world where no one uses them any more. Is it so bad?
  • Are personas stale?I’m not sure I have a definitive answer – which might make me a fip-flopper…but after looking at all the different angles – I think a few improvements have been uncovered
  • We have better access to data than ever before. So when will we see data-based personas - ones that have been derived from behavioral databases? What would they look like? Would they be a knowledgebase for designers (a system where you could ask: 'In these circumstances, what would be a typical users' likely actions be?').Today, people want personalized experiences—I want you know who i am, what i buy, what i like, when I bought it -- personas get close, but i'd rather you know me, not people like me  so, with that the only way to get close is with analytics and concrete behavioral data...knowing who ppl are and doing proper data mining to present the right offers to the right person
  • I spoke with Aviva Rosenstein, the senior manager of user research at Salesforce, she explained her team has already developed a system to do exactly this– instantaneously update personas as they evolve and gather new insights
  • One of my personal favorite (emotional databases) By Jonathon Harris and Sep KamvarMeant to be an “exploration of human emotion” – they document and visualize in real time a massive emotional landscapeYou can see how many and what demographics are feeling happy or sad or frustrated – every time I look at it I think how helpful something like it would be to illustrate users groups for a specific product or service….
  • This brings me to my next point-KEEP IT CHEAPwhat if you were a small business?Would you actually conduct a persona project?Would you spend thousands of dollars on external resources develop them?And when is the right time to do them? When would they add value?I work for a small business and I just tasked with redesigning our main site– I can tell you firsthand I didn’t do persona research before I began designing. Keeping the mindset of small business forces us to be skeptical and critical of any resources we allocate.
  • I would go as far to say personas are irrelevant the moment they’re not current or based on real data.
  • The only way personas are used- is if we talk about them. The minute we don’t, they’re seen as useless and forgotten about.To keep personas relevant in an organization– we should use them in EVERY conversation
  • Personas should be simple – no one wants to read a book about fake person –I believe personas partly became popular as a method to showcase the business value of design development process – something to show as the concrete benefit of spending time and money analyzing user groups. I think a result of this is creating elaborate, overly designed persona deliverables. A persona should be a map; not a poster-- they are meant to guide designs, to bring human needs and behaviors to the center of the design process...they do not need to look like an editorial to do this. I think many times we forget they are supposed to be a tool; not a deliverable.  Most personas get locked in desk drawers. Or they get 'presented' and stuck on a wall. The value of personas is that they're discussed. It's far more useful to write a shorthand persona and then get a design team to discuss what this persona's goals are than to have a detailed persona that goes unread. This goes to a lot of what's being talked about at the moment - that we need to stop focusing on artefacts and deliverables and re-focus on process and discussion. I think we are seeing more bare-bones personas- precisely because of this. I could foresee the formality of personas dying off. I think as UCD methods become more innate in designers and organizations it will seem like a waste of time to create these detailed deliverables. That said, I think it is vital to go through the motions of persona development; considering who your users are, mapping out user flows, and considering what they need (and want) from a design in different contexts are all EXTREMELY important
  • So to re-cap—personas give us some pretty important things: structure to breakdown large user groups story to engage listeners and facilitate discussionand a strategy to shape and move forward with our designs and business goalsBUT ……so use technology to keep it easythink like a small business and keep it cheapkeep it real with current, actual databroadcast and advocate personas within your org.and skip the formalities- keep them simple- think of them as a tool and not a deliverable.

Transcript

  • 1. julia sloan@motivate_design
  • 2. elements of a persona:who they arewhat they care aboutwhat they dophoto
  • 3. Q: why do we use personas?A: to keep users at the center of designdevelopment; to facilitate conversation “They allow us to change the topic of conversation from how best to design for ourselves to how best to meet our customers needs. They create empathy -- we understand and care for our customers better. They allow us to understand that not all customers are created equal, and that even one customer has different needs in different contexts.” Director of UX Macy’s
  • 4. keep asking WHY?
  • 5. what does a persona provide? strategy structure story
  • 6. “Our species has probablybeen telling stories throughoutour history. We’re still going tobe telling stories about ourusers to stakeholders threeyears from now, and we’re stillgoing to need to shareinformation across disciplinesin the organization.”-Aviva Rosenstein, Salesforce
  • 7. what about moods?
  • 8. SEE (significant emotional events)
  • 9. mood vs. emotion
  • 10. getty images - moodstream
  • 11. moods last days/weeks/years “
  • 12. incorporated into:customer journey mapsscenariosday-in the-life “The idea that changing a users environment will change their behavior is at the heart of a lot of interaction design. So the context of use matters a lot. Probably more than most of the stuff you see on a persona (Shelly is 32 and drives a Ford).” -Giles Colborne Author of Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design
  • 13. 1. we don’t use them2. users change3. too much detail4. live & die in the research dept.5. rulebook
  • 14. HOW CAN PERSONAS KEEP UP?
  • 15. 1. use technology to keep it easywebsitesanalyticsbig databehavioral databasesocial networks
  • 16. “At Salesforce my team has built aweb application for maintaining anddelivering robust personas acrossthe entire organization. …as welearn more about our users we caneasily update the characteristics ofexisting personas or add new onesas needed, and those changes willinstantly appear on the webapplication our internal teams useto access the personas.”-Aviva Rosenstein, Salesforce
  • 17. wefeelfine.com (emotional database)
  • 18. 2. keep it cheapwwsbd?(what would small businesses do?)
  • 19. 3. keep it real“Personas are not a document.Persona descriptions can be adocument (or a movie or any otherpractical rendering). But, those are justrenderings of what happened duringthe persona creation process.Here’s the way to think of it: Personasare to Persona Descriptions asVacations are to Souvenir PictureAlbums.” Jared Spool 2008
  • 20. 4. keep it aliveadvocatetalk to everyoneupdates on how they are used “Use them in every conversation.” Sean McLeary Director of UX at DocuSign Inc.
  • 21. 5. skip the formalitiesrelevantstraightforwardpart of a discussionWhats the minimum viable persona?
  • 22. to recap…1. personas give you:structurestorystrategy2. but unacknowledged, excessive, and stale personas cantrip you up3. so…use technologykeep it cheapkeep it realbroadcastand skip the formalities
  • 23. Thank you! Questions?@motivate_designjulia@motivatedesign.comand a big thanks to:mona patelgiles colbornescott kincadeaviva rosensteinsean mcleary& the noun project