There are a lot of things that can make up an effective experience for your users. Creating a usable reliable product comes after doing research into the clients target audience through surveys or having the opportunity to have a one on own conversation with one of their users. While the aforementioned methods yield excellent results, what do you do if the client doesn’t have a clear understanding of who they’re trying to target?
You can’t just pick a User out of the air at random can you? Although it isn’t an exact science at times creating a set of User personas may be able to fill in the blanks for you. It wasn’t until recently, while I was doing research for a project, they I really began to see the value in being able to create a persona.
Having the ability to sit down with your client and work out who they would like to target with their message, will work wonders when crafting the personas for their solution. Using qualitative and quantitative research will help you explore the possibilities. Quantitative research is about testing or proving something with a large sample group. Using the analysis of the site-traffic and doing user surveys are very good examples of quantitative research. To break it all down, quantitative research is better at telling you what is happening and qualitative research is better at telling you why it’s happening. Sitting down with the client and outlining several goals, will help us begin the conversation between us and the user, we need to fully understand why they come to the site and what they’re trying to accomplish.
The Qualitative Persona Process
User interviews allow us to talk one on one with about a small group of 10 to 20 users themselves. Field studies have proven effective for gaining knowledge about the user in their own environment, while asking them questions and gauging the response. Usability testing can be used to observe users behavior, but at this stage of the process it’s hard to setup tests without a product already in place.
Segment Users based on the research
Segmentation involves taking the many data points to create groupings that can be described based on the commonalities among each one of the group members.
Segmenting is less about the science behind it all and more about reviewing the data collected and going with your gut feeling.
Create a persona for each segment
Each type of user evolves into a persona as you add more details to their goals and behaviors. Each persona then becomes more realistic once you assign a name, photo, demographic, scenarios, etc.
When to Use Qualitative Personas
If we can’t invest much time or money into creating the personas, then using the qualitative process might be the way to go. In this case, the client will not need to review the persona and the stakes aren’t too high in terms of how we’ll be using the personas for the clients solution. Maybe we could apply this method of using personas on a smaller project before using them on a larger client.
Understanding Quantitative Research
Again, the qualitative research helps us gain insight into the goals, behaviors, and attitude of the user.
Form hypotheses about segmentation options
Use your qualitative research devise various ways in which we might segment users. At the end we should have a variety of candidates to analyze.
Collect data based on segmentation options through quantitative research
For each segmentation option, there are particular questions that we’ll need to address through using site traffic analysis. Maybe asking questions about how often and for how long does the user use the existing solution? The goal at this point is to gather more data for the next step.
Segment the users based on statistical cluster analysis
An algorithm takes more of an active role in guiding the segmentation model, rather than just testing the existing assumptions. You could end up with a number of clusters and any number of attributes as key differences between each cluster. This step in the personas process is significantly different than other approaches because the segmentation is data driven as well as human driven.
Create a persona for each segment
When the cluster analysis finishes the segments, we need to take the data and make it real, like in the qualitative research process.
When to Use a Quantitative Approach
If we had the time and money to invest in this type of research, more power to us. This may be the route, if we were only doing usability testing for a client or the client request to review our data that we collected about the solution and audience. We could take more time to explore multiple segmentation models to find the right one and our personas might be driven by multiple variables. This would be good if we didn’t understand which segmentation model is the most important to the client and or solution.
Jared Spool points out five different factors to help you create a successful persona project:
- Conduct First-hand Research
Start your persona project with a quick round of field visits. Don’t make up personas, even from demographic and psychographic data. Instead, focus primarily on your target audience’s behaviors. The more people you visit, the more likely your personas will reflect real audiences and produce the great design insights you seek.
- Include a Broader Team
At the project’s start, identify the core team members and the influencers. Core team members should participate in most of the research. You should set a minimum amount of participation for influencers, which includes several visits and time in the creation process (so they see how it’s done).
- Develop an Intimate Knowledge of Each Persona
Teams should regularly review their persona descriptions throughout the project. Each team member should have no trouble describing how each persona will influence the direction of the design.
- Be Relevant to the Immediate Design Objectives
Pick the most valuable design objectives when creating your personas. Look at the upcoming design challenges and choose objectives where the UX will bring great returns if you do an awesome job. For the other objectives, don’t fret if your personas aren’t useful. (But you’ll get extra karma points when they are.)
- Provide Rich Scenarios for Each Persona
Derive your scenarios directly from your research. The more time you spend in research, the easier it is to create a multitude of specific scenarios. It becomes a simple matter of describing exactly what you saw.
You can read the full article here.
Over at UX Magazine, Jeff Gothelf talks about the struggles of getting your voice heard at an executive level when working as a UX professional within an agency. Getting everyone on board with creating personas can be a task itself. Using a proto-persona might just end up being a healthy alternative.
A proto-persona is not based off of extensive user research, but instead they are based on workshops held within your organization with employees. To learn more about proto-personas read more of Jeff’s article.
Making personas isn’t and shouldn’t be incredibly difficult. As you make multiple personas it gets easier and you’ll find your rhythm. Adding a face behind your decision making proccess can be incredibly useful when deisgning and may encourage some empathy from the design team. Hopefully you can take what you’ve read here and begin applying these techniques within your own processes for your clients, whether your going things alone or your designing for the User Experience at a firm.