When Personas Fail …
Not because you build personas then it will be successful. Personas are not just about a name or a story you craft. In order for your persona to be successful, powerful and useful for your product, you have to avoid these reasons of failed personas:
1- Poorly communicated UX persona
Personas are built to be communicated. If you fully understand your persona and you put it in your mind and use it when designing but your team lack this understanding, then your persona has no meaning.
Personas need to be shared, communicated and understood by all team members and within different teams: UX designers, business analysts, developers, marketing and project management.
It’s not just a file on your drive. Personas are usually communicated through a power point, or any other file shared on the drive with all team members, but this is not the best way to communicate it.
Better communication for your persona can be done through:
Meeting the team is better when communicating personas. Gather team members and start presenting the persona.
Make a story. People love stories and if you created a story around your persona it’s more likely to be remembered by other teams rather than boring bullet points or a presentation.
People need to understand the process. Help team members to understand the reason for creating this persona, the effort consumed in the research phase that results in creating this persona and how it was built.
Share it in a smarter way. Instead of sharing it on the drive or by email, print it and share with your team and pin it in the meeting room to be always visible for you and your team especially when you are making decisions in the design phase.
2- UX Persona drove by stakeholder’s opinions Without Enough Research
Stakeholders think they really understand their users. Most of the stakeholders are sure that they know and understand their users and don’t see any need in conducting a user research saying “Why to consume a lot of money and time on user research and we already understand our users?”.
Unfortunately, their understanding may be wrong and for most of the time it’s wrong, and performing the research will validate whether their understanding is right or not.
Personas are the output of user research. Personas are built from the input of the qualitative and quantitative user research. So building a persona without any kind of research or study is just like painting a picture of your users without seeing them and these thoughts might be right but also, it can be completely wrong.
For better result, you should focus on:
Listen to your stakeholders. You have to listen to your stakeholders, understand their opinions and learn about your users from them. But don’t take their opinions and understanding for granted.
Buy-in first. Convincing top management about the importance of user research and influencing their decision through stories, case studies, and news in one of your roles as a designer. So don’t be anxious about it, you must fight for it.
Researched users should be from your targeted segment. Conducting user research without defined criteria for the users who will participate in the research phase will result in a research that may be good but unfortunately will lead to building a persona that is different than what it should be like. Your persona should be a representation of your real targeted users.
3- UX Persona is made up of just list of traits, habits, demographics, and skills
Many designers perceive the persona as a list of traits, habits, demographic data and some skills. But this is wrong and Inhumane, your persona needs to feel more humanly: Have a background, values, story, and personality.
For building powerful personas you need to focus on:
Stories to build empathy. Your persona needs a story to help you and your team build empathy and understand it well, the story of the persona must communicate it’s problems, goals, and desires. People are more engaged when they listen to stories and they are more likely to feel empathy towards your persona.
Personas are not the sum of all user research data. Personas are not built by combining all of your research studies and putting them into a presentation.
Persona should answer all questions. You and your team, of course, have a lot of question that your persona should answer it all, imagine you are designing an e-commerce website, your persona has to answer questions like What makes (persona) motivated to buy online? What are (persona) goals? What are the problems facing the (Persona) when buying online?
Your persona should have these sections to be able to answer all questions in your mind and your team’s mind. The 10 elements of user personas are discussed greatly in DIY User Personas article.