Personas and how to improve the quality of business solutions


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These are the slides for a presentation I gave around Personas and their use in creating high quality solutions.

The text that went with the presention is available here:

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  • My impression of life before Personas!
    Really came into use after Cooper's \"Inmates are Running the Asylum\" in 1999
    Software must have been pretty bad before that!
    Now coming more and more into widespread use
    Still fear at cost and time to create
    BUT, that cost and time has far more benefits than just the Persona!
  • Not going into too much detail
    Persona is a representation of our target user.
    Persona should capture:

    Very brief biographical information


    Skill levels

    Environmental Factors (e.g. uses computer at work only, at home with baby)

    Tasks - a.k.a Work or activity flows (important ones from here)



    Personas are not just for UX, so they need to be concise and accessible.
    Uses throughout the requirements, design, development and delivery phases of a solution
  • Can be looked upon with suspicion in the business community
    Too emotional - not enough logic!
    Empathy allows us to identify with the needs of our users
    Empathy allows us to get to know who we are developing a solution for
    It brings us close to our users and understand their goals
    Empathy helps us to build usable and accessible solutions
    That is empathy with our end users, but we also need to have empathy with our clients
    Personas allows us to understand the needs of the end user and the client
  • Understanding the needs of our end users important and generally accepted
    It is equally important for us to understand the needs and motivation of the client
    This allows us to to speak to them in a language they understand
    Speak to them with authority about their business and needs
    Gives them confidence that we understand their business needs and what they want from the solution
    It builds trust
    Important to be embedded in with a client
    Understanding, and its role in Personas, allows us to interact more efficiently with our clients.

  • Good usability is what we all strive for

    By empathising and understand we put ourselves in the shoes of the user and take the first steps towards a solution that is usable

    Usability is good for business!

    Jared Spool and the $300million button

    Removing the registration at the beginning of the checkout process

    Purchases went up by 45%

    Lower barrier to entry

    Emotional bias to give details at end of process

    A usable solution is likely to be a successful solution - Personas are an integral part of getting the usability right and getting the solution right.[ PAUSE - NEW THEME ]

  • Lots of different methods to build a Persona

    Quantitative - all about numbers and data


    Web Analytics

    Qualitative - all about the individuals

    User Interviews

    Contextual Enquiry

    Focus Groups

    Diary Studies

    These methods allow us to understand the user, but also:

    the problem space

    opportunities for growth

    identify competitors

    look at more general user trends

    The research that we do for Personas should not just be used for the Persona creation - it also can be very valuable business information.
  • Personas play an integral part when it comes to designing the solution
    We know know who we are designing for and why
    They allow us to make the right design decision
    They keep the “You out of User”
    Designing the right thing instead of the cool thing
    Personas and understanding the users’ goals allow us to make better design decisions

  • Understanding the goals of our users mean that we build the most appropriate solution

    Allow us to validate if that’s what the user really wants and needs, rather than what someone else (like the client) thinks they need

    I was working on a rebuild of a CRM / claim system about 7/8 years ago

    Old mainframe system - Users on green screen terminals
    Moving to a web based solution
    Client wanted pretty, branded solution
    User Interviews/Contextual enquiry revealed driver for users
    Process as many claims as possible - quick and responsive
    Also a need for the business - quick claim processing
    End solution was not pretty or branded, but met the users needs and the clients needs!
  • Good to have a stakeholder persona
    Ensure that the business needs are met
    Allows us to understand the business
    Also ensures that any backend systems are easy to use
    Personas are not just about the end user, about the stakeholder and the business in general too
  • Personas play an important part in the development stage too
    Especially in an Agile environment
    RITE: Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation
    By knowing who are users are we can quickly find people that match out Persona to test
    Agile is all about user stories, and our Personas represent our users[ PAUSE - NEW THEME ]

  • I think it’s important to always ask who are are building this solution for and why

    During the development phase, which user are we referring to in this user story

    What’s the benefit to the user and to the business of doing this piece of work

    Personas should be everywhere, at all meetings and especially at iteration planning meetings.



    Cardboard Cut Outs

    Mood Boards

    Top Trump Cards

    Personas ensure that we focus on building the right thing for the right people
  • Personas can be really useful during brainstorming meetings
    Using the presentation techniques I mentioned
    But also Role Playing
    When trying to come up with a solution, someone plays the Persona and answers questions as the Persona
    Good way to make sure we focus on the user and building the right thing.
  • Give one of your Personas a disability - even a minor one
    Keeps accessibility in the forefront
    Also ties in to Progressive Enhancement and an agile process (build and iterate)
    Good accessibility helps with SEO
    Personas bring value at every stage of the process.[ PAUSE - NEW THEME ]
  • Personas allow us to determine the effectiveness of our approach and design of a solution
    Allow us to do it early in the development phase
    Important for us
    Also important for the client
    And for use to prove that we’re doing the right thing to the client
  • Test Early and Test Often!
    Guerilla Testing
    Works well with Agile
    Low cost and high value
    Quick (5 people is enough)
    Personas allow us to identify the right people to use to test
  • By conducting regular testing we catch issues early and address them quickly
    No snowballing and trying to patch things at a late stage
    This also helps to underpin the Agile way of iterating over things (which is often overlooked!)
  • Personas play a really powerful role in communication
    Both externally with clients
    And internally within the project team
  • Humans are storytellers and storylisteners. We are more receptive to a story
    Personas tell a story, or at least allow us to
    By telling a story, based on a Persona, we can more easily communicate our ideas and sell our vision

  • This helps us to build consensus

    By telling a story around a design or feature we make it easier to get consensus

    “Joe gets home from work and like to catch up on the news. He doesn’t have much time before he goes back out to meet his friends...”

    By couching an approach like this we are not imposing our opinion, it’s the best way for the user.

    You encounter 3 types of people that you need to convince, and Personas can really help with each one.

    The CEO:

    All about the vision and the big idea, generally Sales minded

    Best persuaded using an anecdote - a story

    The CFO:

    Not interested in a story, or really the bottom number - Wants to know the process, the formula used to reach a decision

    The research and methodology that we use to build Personas and gather requirements is invaluable here

    The Developer:
    Wants hard facts and logic - Our Quantitative data helps here
    As does the Qualitative and A/B testing... 4 out of 5 users we tested said they preferred this way
  • Because we are not presenting “our idea”, which may not agree with the clients idea, but the best way to please the user
    We can build consensus
    But this also helps us with getting commitment
    The Neutral person
    Client doesn’t feel that we didn’t listen to them and instead pushed our idea - it was all about the user
    Less chance of hitting a “I’d like to revisit my idea...” moment
    Again, Personas “Keep the You out of User”
  • So, Personas are not just an instrument that we use at the beginning of the solution building process
    They are something that we can use to great effect from the start of the finish
    They help us to DETERMINE what it is the solution should be, by giving us empathy and understanding.
    They help us to COMMUNICATE our vision of the solution and help us to build consensus and commitment
    They allow us to MEASURE our ideas and the effectiveness of our designs
    And they can CONTRIBUTE to the work of different groups, be it development, marketing and sales
    All this end to end value by providing us with an insight into our users.
  • Thanks for listening.
    I’m happy to share this presentation and my notes with anyone who would like a copy.
    Would anyone like to ask a question or kick off a discussion on a point you agreed or disagreed with?
  • Personas and how to improve the quality of business solutions

    1. 1. Personas And how to increase the quality of solutions
    2. 2. Life before Personas
    3. 3. Anatomy of a Persona
    4. 4. Empathy
    5. 5. Understanding
    6. 6. Usability
    7. 7. Research
    8. 8. Design
    9. 9. Goals
    10. 10. Stakeholders
    11. 11. Development
    12. 12. Who?
    13. 13. Brainstorming
    14. 14. Accessibility
    15. 15. Measure
    16. 16. Testing
    17. 17. Efficiency
    18. 18. Communication
    19. 19. Storytelling
    20. 20. Consensus
    21. 21. Commitment
    22. 22. Start to Finish