What are personas?
Personas are user profiles created by an individual or team of professionals describing the type of user that will use a product/service/or interface sometimes in minute detail.
My problem with personas.
Looking back with more experience today, it frustrates me to think that I thought personas were a great tool to use in my workflow. It enabled me to have someone to design for on a strict timeline. After working so hard on my personas, I could predict how they would use my interface designs because I knew that persona so well. I thought this was really cool and super helpful at the time.
Let me explain why personas are killing your chances of designing the right products for your users. Personas we develop tell us everything we need to know to inform our design decisions quickly. I think the demand for quick turnaround times is exactly the reason personas were created in the first place. Today, automating processes allow us to have more time to efficiently do our job, so it makes practical sense to use personas in order to speed up the process. However, while your intentions were in the right place it doesn’t change the fact that your persona is completely unreliable. Using personas simply supplements the lack of communication you have with real people. It’s utter nonsense to think you can achieve the best experience with personas in your main user awareness tool. Personas inform our design decision quickly, keep our boss satisfied, and shelter our introverted nature. Take the time to remember that your persona isn’t a real human, and realize that it’s because of the reason that you created it that it shouldn’t be used it at all. It doesn’t matter that personas help designers be more efficient initially, the long term damage it will create is devastating. You scrap your entire project because you realized you built the wrong product for the wrong person that wasn’t even a person, to begin with.
I understand this statement is hard to accept in the world of technology today but some things just can’t and won’t be automated, relationships and knowing another person, truly knowing another person, will never be automated. We need to do a better job as UX/UI Designers to realize we are the bridge to our companies long lasting relationship with their users.
Your unchallenged personas aka “assumptions” build the wrong product.
Too often personas are created and not influenced by a real person. Without asking users their thoughts how do you know what they think? Without observing how users feel how do you know what they care about? Challenge your design skills and don’t assume anything. Take every aspect of another person and design something specifically for them. That’s what true design is, push yourself to do this and your work will be stronger than ever before.
Personas don’t achieve effective products, even if you create your persona after a real conversation with a real person. Without testing your design you’ve only just influenced it. Communication is important because it initially informs the decisions you are making while. However, that is just the beginning process towards launching your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Once you have launched, that is when the real measurement of success begins.
Personas are no excuse to not talk to people using your product.
Personas are convenient and practical, I get that, but convenience and practicality don’t have a presence in relationships. As UX/UI Designers you are designing for emotionally driven people who make unpractical purchases because of the way that product makes them feel. Don’t believe me? Okay, take a look at most of the successful brands on the market today, Jaguar, Nike, Rolex, Ray Bans, Apple, or Coca-Cola. Each one of these brands sells products that are tied strongly to our emotions, not our practicality, they wouldn’t exist if that were the case. For god sakes, Coca-Cola’s tagline is “taste the feeling”. Think of the relationships your company has with its users like any other relationship in your life. If you care about someone what do you do in order to show that you care? You spend time with them, you learn about who they are, you express that you care about them by giving or doing something for them that they care about. The relationships you build with your users at your company are absolutely no different.
“You can’t automate relationships. Good relationships takes years to build and maintain.”
Your company is building relationships with users every day. You need to continuously involve user communication in your workflow. Relationship building is important to the vitality of a successful product or service. Designers are communicators they should be more than willing to get out of the office to hit the pavement start talking with people. I feel like designers hear that and think of a door to door salesman that is selling you something you don’t really want in the first place. NO! When you’re talking to the users that match the product or service demographic. Realize that you’ve created something for them that they do want and you’re asking them what you can do to make it even better. See the difference? They going to love talking with you, you’re actually engaging and listening to their thoughts and opinions on a subject that highly interests them. Doing this not only gives you more information than you probably expected but you just made a connection with a real person who now has respects your company/brand.
Concluding my personas rant.
Hopefully, this post made you think a little. For me, this is a change that gives designers more ability to affect users. I know that getting rid of personas in my workflow has made incredible changes to my work. I hope it does the same for you and if you’re struggling with this I would love to hear what think. Will you get rid of personas in your workflow? Why or why not?