Personas

Personas drive business strategy at Best Buy (or vice versa)

Earlier in the spring I blogged about Best Buy using personas. It’s interesting to me to see how those personas have started to permeate Best Buy culture - with customers being labeled with the name of the persona, as discussed in this Wall Street Journal article.

Store clerks receive hours of training in identifying desirable customers according to their shopping preferences and behavior. High-income men, referred to internally as Barrys, tend to be enthusiasts of action movies and cameras. Suburban moms, called Jills, are busy but usually willing to talk about helping their families. Male technology enthusiasts, nicknamed Buzzes, are early adopters, interested in buying and showing off the latest gadgets.

Best Buy uses Personas to shape retail experience

Electronics giant Best Buy is using personas to focus its stores on particular customer segments -

From USA Today:
Best Buy’s plan is to revamp its stores according to the types of customers they serve, a strategy it calls customer centricity. The company came up with five prototypical customers, all of whom have been given names: “Jill,” a busy suburban mom; “Buzz,” a focused, active younger male; “Ray,” a family man who likes his technology practical; “BB4B” (short for Best Buy for Business), a small employer; and “Barry,” an affluent professional male who’s likely to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a home theater system.

Over the next few years, each of Best Buy’s 608 stores will focus on one or two of the five segments…

It’s interesting that they are focusing stores on just one or two segments - that there is a primary persona for a retail location. While we know that each primary persona needs an interface tailored for them, creating a new interface usually doesn’t take the same capital costs as opening a store. What does a store’s focus on soccer mom Jill mean for the Best Buy customer who is more like Buzz, the young active geek? Thanks IDBlog

Personas & Scenarios in the wild

It's been interesting over the last 6 months to notice personas escaping from the design team out into marketing. Not surprising, since personas largely derive from marketing's user archetypes. Sightings: MSN Personas and IBM print ad (thanks Brett), and the more scenario-focused Macromedia Central Portraits and Vodafone's Future Vision. Vodafone's piece isn't just about marketing - it's scenarios in the sense of prototyping the future. Most of the scenarios involve technology that only exists now as concepts or clunky kludged prototypes, not the polished integration of wearable, mobile communications into everyday life depicted in their scenarios.

One of the challenges of personas being more publicly visible is that clients or other departments may start building up preconceived ideas about how personas work, what they should include, and how they should be used. The marketing scenarios and personas shown above are all valuable, but don't have the level of detail required to make decisions about behavior. I'm not sure how well George Olsen's Persona Toolkit would be accepted by folks who already have set expectations about the deliverable and its usefulnes.

Know of more public personas? Drop a line in the comments...

Forrester on design personas

Forrester's market report, "The Power Of Design Personas", helps businesses understand the use and potential for integrating personas in software/technology development. To quote the report:

Though increasingly popular, personas remain widely misunderstood. Successful efforts key off of actual user behaviors, read like a story about a real person, and get used by everyone.

Market research plays a big role in communicating important processes and methodologies to business users. In my organization, market reports are among the most used information assets we serve. Seeing UX issues arise in market research literature is a good thing for our disciplines.

Personas: Setting the Stage for Building Usable Information Site

Personas: Setting the Stage for Building Usable Information Sites by Alison J. Head [via InfoDesign (Peter J. Bogaards)], a good article on personas, showing more than telling, with good example personas and a brief case study using BBCi.

Includes pointers, necessary details, and a tutorial featuring a well-explained example.

The origin of personas

Alan Cooper shares the background of Cooper's personas, but fails to acknowledge the considerable contributions of others to the concept. In particular, Geoffrey Moore describes very clearly the technique of archetypal users working through scenarios in 1991's Crossing the Chasm, and Victor points out other contributors to the technique from within the Bay Area's HCI community.

Whatever the origin, personas provide a valuable tool, and while I don't think they take weeks of study and months of practice to apply, we too often just "make them up". That sort of fictionalization can actually be worse than no personas at all.

Free Forrester Paper - web usability downfalls; personas; more

Forrester Research has made their TechStrategy Brief Web Sites Continue to Fail the Usability Test available for guest users on the site. For the price of your time signing up for a guest account, you'll get a 7 page article they would normally charge $200 or more for. Don't be deceived by the title - the paper addresses more than usability testing, and is a good-but-brief introduction to personas and scenarios from a recognized industry source (good for the boss or a client - you might want to download the 'briefcase' - a zip file with the PDF article, some source data, and ready-made slides).

Dictionary of names

Ever struggle to find a name that fits a design persona perfectly? The Kabalarian Philosophy site has a useful name dictionary. You can view male/female names in alpha order or browse by category, e.g. ethnicity or geographic location.

Looking for last names? You might find some interesting ones at Vitalog.net's surname database or using last-names.net's Last Name Meanings Dictionary.

Personas and the customer decision-making process

From GUUUI. Henrik Olsen makes some great points and presents a case study on yet another interesting and useful way to use personas.

Read Personas and the customer decision-making process.

Practical Persona Creation

Keith Robinson has an interesting article on Evolt about Practical Persona Creation. If you've used personas before, there's not a lot new, but it's a good introduction for colleagues or others not familiar with the technique. He's also followed it up with a couple example personas.

Who's more important?

Here's an interesting question that's come up for me. Say you have a user population that subscribes to services you offer. Those groups can be categorized, e.g. in my case by business unit. You have statistics for each of the user groups and can describe:

  1. the number of subscribed users in each group
  2. the amount of money spent by each group
There are other dimensions as well, e.g. subscription to particular products by user group, but these are the simplest to compare. So the question is, what's more important do you think? Who has the most users or who pays the most money? I know there's more to consider than these two dimensions, but I found it interesting in the data I'm looking at, because the group with the most users does not spend the most money on products.

Rashmi Sinha: Persona Creation for Information Rich Sites

Christina pointed to Rashmi Sinha's weblog entry Creating personas for information-rich websites, in which Rashmi proposes a methodology for creating personas that utilizes statistical analysis of user needs and suggests that accuracy is in fact important to persona design. The sugggestion about accuracy is contrary to the tenet in Coopers Inmates... that precision is more important than accuracy. From Rashmi's article describing the methodology, this statement seems important to me,

    Personas for information-rich sites must incorporate input about ways in which people will use complex information domains.
The methodology:

    (a) Use survey techniques (also used in market segmentation). (b) Focus questions around user needs rather than what they simply like / dislike. (c) Identify constellations of needs rather than clusters of users. (d) Use this information as the kernel to build personas around
This was a great find for me. I'm currently working with user surveys and usage statistics to describe the use of a digital library (traditional library measurement). I'm also doing more traditional surveys of user needs to create design personas (design methodology). What I was hoping to do was to use the information-use data to inform the persona development. That way I can provide accurate descriptions of users through personas, which I know is not exactly the Cooper way. There's just a great deal of thrust in my organization to be sure that user behavior that is currently high volume (popular) is not dismissed in any redesign of our products and services. I'm sort of gravitating to Rashmi's model now because of something she mentions in this requiremenet of her methodology, which I agree with, and which should help in bolstering support for personas in my organization, should I use this methology:

    The method should help ground the personas in reality (common critique of personas is that they are based on the designer’s imagination).
Great concepts. I just wouldn't want to break out SPSS to do this, though. I hated statistics in grad school. I suppose identifying constellations of needs is simple enough, though.

Personas

Peter pointed to some well-written personas for accessiblity that Mark is writing on Dive Into Mark.

Bringing your personas to life in real life

Elan Freydenson in Boxes and Arrows.

    The way you communicate the personas and present your deliverables is key to ensuring consistency of vision. Without that consistency, you’ll spend far too much time arguing with your colleagues about who your users are rather than how to meet their needs.
Persona development

Robert Reinman's personas presentation for AIGA Advance for Design in 1999.

thanks CarbonLog

Scenario Design Depends On Personas

If you have access to Forrester, this Forrester Brief talks about personas. This is targetted at clients or in-house teams more than design agencies or consultancies. Many firms still lack the critical user information necessary for successful Scenario Design. Companies that create design personas have the necessary foundation for crafting a great user experience.

Perfecting Your Personas

Kim Goodwin of Cooper Interactive offers some tips to help you perfect your personas. A persona is a user archetype you can use to help guide decisions about product features, navigation, interactions, and even visual design. By designing for the archetype—whose goals and behavior patterns are well understood—you can satisfy the broader group of people represented by that archetype. ... It's easy to assemble a set of user characteristics and call it a persona, but it's not so easy to create personas that are truly effective design and communication tools. Tips: Personas represent behavior patterns, not job descriptions; Keep your persona set small; Your marketing and sales targets may not be your design targets; Add life to the personas, but remember they're design tools first; Use the right goals; Personas must be specific to the design problem.

XML feed