8 Pro-Tips to Get More Out of Personas

By Samantha Silver

computer-1331579_1280     Personas are personable, actionable, and detailed descriptions of 3-5 archetypes of the people who use your product, service, or brand and are also critical to the long-term success of your business. The objective of personas in product design is to establish a common reference point by which to anchor both tactical and strategic product decisions in user-centric design. Robust personas paint vivid pictures of who each archetype is, what their lifestyle is like, what they care most about, and what their attitude is like in product-relevant scenarios.

      Actionable mindfulness of users is what personas deliver to the product development lifecycle. However, many teams forget that mindfulness is trained and built from active participation and routine. Just as simply owning books about fitness and health won’t automatically get you closer to your fitness goals, product teams must know how to actively use persona insights in the product development process to effectively build better products. Some find the investment in personas impractical while others don’t to see how personas can have a lasting impact over over the course of the product development. What skeptics fail to understand is that personas are the first step in a larger effort to help shift perspectives within an organization and encourage developers, designers, and product team to anchor their focus to fulfilling needs and goals of their users rather than to building out product functionality and complexity.

At Key Lime, we care about your ROI in any user research you invest in. Here are eight pro tips from our experts on how your product team can get more out of personas:

  1. Recognize your knowledge gaps
    We find that the first step of any team looking to make the most of personas is acknowledging the presence of gaps in their knowledge of the users they are designing for and the recognizing the value of filling these gaps. Collectively acknowledging a need to develop a deeper their understanding of users sets teams on a path towards more user-centric design practices. Teams that have come to a consensus about strategic research areas for their personas and critical unknowns enable user research teams to develop more targeted brand-specific or product-specific personas.
  2. Know the difference between Market Segmentations vs. Personas
    While insights from Market Segmentations and Personas do overlap, the purposes they serve are quite different. Knowing these differences will allow you to make more effective decisions about where to invest your funds. Unlike Personas, Market Segmentations serve to identify the precise volumetric breakdown between certain demographic characteristics and behaviors of your prospective customer base. Personas work to serve all members of the product team, including engineering, design, marketing, and strategy, to help teams improve their product’s alignment with true user needs and drive customer retention.
  3. Understand their impact is tied to your advocacy
    To move towards more user-centric design, teams must recognize that Personas are only as strong as their strongest advocates within an organization. Teams that get the most out of Personas continue to reinforce the perspectives and insights Personas have brought forth in practice and are constantly mindful of each archetypes values and needs throughout product development. It is built into the language and dialogue they use in the workplace. By referencing persona insights and learnings in your daily or weekly meetings, you’ll inspire others to do so to through this verbal citation. Leverage them to build more solid arguments for cases you are trying to make, or simply ask teams to consider how problem or decision at hand would impact each archetype.
  4. Don’t forget about them in critical conversations and decision points
    Clients who have had the most success with Personas were those who knew which business-critical meetings Personas needed to be refactored into the equation. Identifying Persona integration opportunities in advance makes it easier for product teams to put the Persona integration into practice across the product development lifecycle. Here are some examples of product team checkpoints where Personas can act as effective tools in facilitating deeper and more meaningful strategic user-centric conversations.
  5. Don’t stick to the basics
    Personas serve the purpose of helping product teams visualize their user archetypes, maybe even as people they might have met in life, to enable engineers and designers alike to empathize with each archetypes needs. At the same time, Personas provide actionable tactical and strategic insight into how product experiences can be optimized for one archetype compared to the next. There is no universal recipe for success. Companies who get the most out of Peronsas customize Personas to meet the needs of their team. By sticking to a mold or generic persona structure, companies end up with Personas are dry and irrelevant to the work of their teams. Be creative. Break the mold.
  6. Keep it fresh & current
    Any business guru would tell you that successful businesses stay current with the times. It is equally important to keep Personas fresh and current to get the most out of your investment. It won’t require quarterly updates, but it goes to say that it’s important to revisit how relevant your Personas are yearly, and invest in refreshing the content and insights on a need basis, particularly in response to any changes in the retail or digital landscape, or any company rebranding.
  7. Make it actionable for your audience.
    Helping user research teams you are working with understand the mindsets, strategic and tactical priorities, internal biases, and professional backgrounds of the members of your product team is critical to their ability to tailor the presentation of Persona insights to the specific needs of your team. Effectively communicating how these insights will support each individual in making them more effective at their jobs is critical to the adoption of a more user-centric design mindset through the use of Personas. Quality Personas ensure there is something for everyone on your product team in the collective set of insights. Know your audience, and ensure the user researchers working on your Personas know their audience too if you want to get the most of your investment.
  8. Always supplement with ongoing user research
    Personas act as a framework that guides product teams towards completing the larger jigsaw puzzle of a complete understanding of the user experience. Product teams that get the most of Personas dive deeper into specific strategic and tactical insight areas through other user research techniques. While Personas provide a foundation for the broader understanding of your user archetypes, it is necessary to supplement these insights based on areas where your product team might need more clarity on based on the specific stage of the produce development lifecycle they are in and investing in constructing detailed customer journey maps, holding focus groups, running shop alongs, conducting context mapping or participatory design workshops, or other UX research methods.

READ MORE: What Do You Do After You’ve Built Behavioral Personas?, Behavioral Persona Development: A Crash Course, 3 Ways to Incorporate Personas Into Every Department at Your Company, Persona’s From Around the World|| UX Fellows Style