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What is Persona and How Does It Work?

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A persona is an informed interpretation of a product’s consumer – an idea, or simulation of who a product’s customer is.

This idea is built using detailed descriptions to create realistic portraits of a primary audience which develop over time.

Executed with sustained diligence, personas can be very accurate in terms of the consumer groups they represent, granting greater leverage, insight and value to companies.

In the medium-term, persona-driven communication between individuals and departments enhances collaboration. In the long-term, companies stand to benefit through better products and services for the consumer.

The advantages of persona

Personas enable team members to employ a common lexis to produce smoother processes and better overall products.

Within this lexis, personas communicate behaviours, desires and attributes of the end user, so that if the persona’s name is mentioned, everybody knows exactly who and what is being discussed: we’re making this product for Samantha, she needs her products to work in this way to accommodate her tastes, lifestyle and professional demands. Forget Billy in this equation, he wouldn’t expect things to operate in this way.

As personas are relied upon more and more, the team conversation streamlines and creates discussion that avoids the clutter associated with design meetings; “I think that…” becomes “Persona A needs…” and practical purpose gets prioritised in team members’ minds.

When the protocol become more established, instead of reeling off a list of target audience members, your top five personas will communicate the same message far easier and quicker.

The formulation of a persona

Persona-based design enables products and services to be manufactured in a way that resonates with culture of sharing that nourishes modern consumer habits. The approach allows marketing teams to more clearly identify the end-user groups, so requirements can be delivered with digital-era precision.

The process begins with getting to know your consumer; visitor data taken from your website catalyses innovation across the whole course of product development, from initial concept and scenario creation, to prototype iteration and the recruiting of users to test functionality.

It’s best to create personas as a team, enfranchising all members from the get-go. This increases employee buy-in, overall contribution and improves the integrity of the core processes.

Begin by observing profiles of website users, consider what attributes they share, and how they are separated by their personal qualities. This information can be scribbled on post-it notes and stuck to a marker board for everyone to see – keep discussion informal and friendly.

Clustering these attributes is the next step, narrowing them down into named, definable groups. Usually teams will get around 7 workable groups, each of which must be given a believable and personable name, aka a persona.

It’s important to use clear assumptions about your persona and to discuss how realistic they are with team members. This interpretation will be galvanised through more data collection. By tweaking these assumptions based on recruited-tester feedback, personas will remain a working model that continually report back on users’ needs.

Persona development

Personas are dynamic and can be created at any point in the process, but they are at their most useful when put together at the genesis of product creation, just after early site data has been analysed.

When a persona statement is made, ensure it can be backed up by data points. This information should then be kept on a database and built up over a period of time. These evidence-based statements help to keep the personas believable, accurate and defensible, should your persona fall into question. The personas will eventually be usable to verify that your team is headed in the right direction.

Persona storage can be maintained in a single document which expands over time. This document should be divided to accommodate variables such as Attributes, Goals, Usage Scenarios and Background Info, with each piece of information being anchored to a reference source, usability test results, research documents or URLs to online articles.

The final word

Data harvesting in the modern marketplace has enabled brands to get closer than ever before to the end user, and persona is a logical progression on this journey.

When teams run with persona, it affords a shared comprehension about what workers are building towards, creating unique, grounded personalities to understand, where before the “user” existed ethereally and loosely defined.

When a more precise user-model has been realised, those involved in the iterations process can work together, faster and more efficiently, and in a way that minimises the likelihood of individuals heading off in different design directions.

Persona is the foundation of a more clear, focussed interface that results in the consumer getting all they want from what your brand has to offer. Breaking away from the need to create a panacea product, companies that embrace persona can more easily put together a line of targeted, streamlined products that will deliver more value to more people while delivering a unified brand message.

 

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Tags: Business, Digital Transformation