Home » Writing Advice, Writing Tools » Creating Personas

Creating Personas

30 May 2017

PG thought he knew what the OP would be about, but he was mistaken.

From Prototypr.io:

The first thing a good UX Designer should tell you about creating a persona is that if you just blindly follow a template, you have missed the point. User research should inform the layout — don’t let the layout constrain the research.

Put simply, don’t just follow a template.

Sadly, this advice is not very helpful when you are starting out, staring at a blank sheet of paper trying to create a set of personas.

‘Isn’t making a persona a waste of time? What’s the point?’

Personas are all about building empathy amongst your team. Great software gets made when the people who make it care about the people who use it. That means during every meeting, when making any decision, in every design and with every line of code, you should first be thinking about your users.

. . . .

‘What should I put in a persona?’

To answer this question with a question: what is it about your users that your team should know, remember and reflect on every day?

To answer your question in a more detailed (and longwinded) way, I have put together this worksheet that I use to guide my research:

Link to the rest at Prototypr.io

There is a second page to the worksheet at the OP. PG was interested in the similarity of the persona worksheet for a software user interface to a character sketch.

Writing Advice, Writing Tools

8 Comments to “Creating Personas”

  1. In a 40-year IT career I have NEVER heard of a “persona worksheet for a software user interface”.

    Plenty of personae get attached to users, mind you, but they’re mostly unprintable references.

    Back in the old days, there was a lot of interest in general user-functionality design for websites, analogous to industrial design for things like doors and handles. Alas, much of that is consistently buried under waves of new fashion impulses for web interfaces. (“Ooh! Ooh! Let’s make everyone’s website look like a constrained cellphone!”)

  2. I have heard of this. It usually comes into play for larger corporate sites or retail sites. Still, anything that helps developers focus on actual user experiences is a good thing.

  3. I bet if you surveyed UX designers, you’d find a surprising overlap of those that are writers as well. After all, we’re basically telling stories in and about software and its users.

    Empathy is a huge part of creating characters for fiction, and it’s a huge part of understanding users’ needs.

    • Software development has been a training ground for fiction writing for me. In order to write complex code, I have to keep a lot of pieces in a model in my head, so I can understand how they fit together. That same ability helps with world building and with plotting.

  4. PG was interested in the similarity of the persona worksheet for a software user interface to a character sketch.

    I’d be interested in seeing persona worksheets for software user interfaces for famous fictional characters. What would Heathcliff have under “Possible Triggers”?

  5. “Don’t just follow a template! Here, here’s my template…”

    I call this phenomenon OCTD: Obsessive Compulsive Template Disorder. At one client, they had diligently followed the template and ended up with a 16-page document for the use case “Log In”. If they didn’t fill in every field of that template, management told them they were done.

    Those 16 pages ultimately boiled down to this: “This is a Windows desktop application. We will rely on Windows log in to ensure the user has access.”

  6. I think it originated in the marketing world where the idea of “Buyer Personas” has been around for a while. It’s basically a fancy way of saying “let’s try and view this from the user’s perspective” and the templates etc. are essentially thought experiments or prompts that encourage that mode of thinking.

    • Agreed – and making *actionable* buyer personas is one of the hardest parts of marketing… Especially if you’re operating off assumptions about what customers want, rather than actual customer interviews where you ask what they want!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.