Personas are archetypes that represent the characteristics of a group of individuals. We use them to remind us of who the user is and to focus design efforts on solving the user’s problems with less subjectiveness.

Personas are much more than a demographic. They incorporate the goals, needs and preferences of a group of people whereby creating a personality, rather than just plain stats.

Steps to a Creating Personas
  1. Conduct user research through interviews
  2. Create an affinity diagram from the key take-aways of each interview
  3. Create a persona to represent a user from each group that naturally forms out of the affinity diagram
  4. Prioritize the personas into primary, secondary and special-case users
  5. Validate the personas by doing a gut-check and role-play to make sure you haven’t created a unicorn
  6. Keep the persons alive by keeping them prominently in sight and using them regularly in presentations, documentation and discussions

Once personas are built, we can write more accurate job stories because now it’s built upon actual real research as opposed to assumptions. Job stories coupled with personas help define the “why” behind user motivation.

How many people should we interview to create the personas one may ask?

A good rule of thumb is to conduct at least five interviews per persona. Thus, if we’re hoping to create 3-5 personas, we would need to interview at least 15 to 25 individuals.

A good interview will incorporate the following to help elicit the most insight: 

  • Ask why even if you think you might know the answer; often you will be surprised
  • Encourage interviewees to tell stories; it makes it more real, provides context and reveals how they think about the world
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues like body language and emotions
  • Don’t be afraid of silence because a pause can often allow interviewees to reflect on what they’ve said and may share something deeper
  • Avoid leading questions because they will encourage interviewees to agree with you

In order to keep an interview engaging yet capture as much information as possible, three roles are often needed:

  1. Interviewer – the one engaging in the conversation
  2. Scribe – the one taking notes of what’s said
  3. Observer – the one making note of body language and emotions

Our assignment today was to hit the streets of downtown Toronto, interview about 10 people, and then create two personas for the fictional news organization – New News. The three of us took turns being the interviewer, scribe, and observer. It was a fun but tiring exercise!