My Experience With Personas

As the world revolves around buying and selling, companies have become cutthroat and rather ingenious in their ways to predict how customers will interact with their brand. Through models called “personas,” marketing and design teams can create a cast of characters that make up groups of their customer base. These personas are created through market and user research, giving accurate pictures of what the real customers look like, their needs, and how a person’s business/product/service fits into their day to day lives.

A persona is often mapped out using key qualities, behaviors, and motivations. To help yourself on your way, you can find some really valuable resources here. While my assignment this week was to create two dueling personas to expand a project from a few weeks ago, I really wanted to focus this blog post on how I have encountered personas in the professional world thus far and what others have thought about them.

My First Experience

After wracking my brain for a while, I would have to say my first experience with personas goes back to my junior year of college. I had secured a summer internship with a very well known talent acquisition SAAS company. It was here within the UX and Interactive Design Department that I heard about personas and began to understand what they did and how they were created.

On my team, we had a UX design intern who specialized in service design – a field that encompasses UX. Often times we collaborated, and I was able to see what it was she was working on. There was always a lot of post-it notes, a lot of organization, and a bunch of back and forth between the marketing and design teams. At first, it was confusing but after seeing the fully developed persona, I realized that these caricatures were there to guide our efforts. Helping her design the final product piqued my interest and I did a lot of reading on the internet in order to solidify my understanding. Today, I can attribute my master’s specialization in UX to the experiences I had at this company.

Encountering Personas Elsewhere

While my team at my internship was super driven by personas, I noticed that this wasn’t necessarily the case at other positions. At some companies, people just didn’t think persona building – or sharing their already identified personas – was important. As a person who is super interested in the psychology of design and the “hows” and “whys,” it was extremely disappointing to see that other teams didn’t allow their designer to know their end user as intimately as they did.

This disconnect resulted in projects being major hits or misses. At some points, the extreme fluctuations were starting to affect my self-esteem as a designer and made me stress out. I could never tell, project to project, who I was creating for and why something might or might not work. Although I was only creating static graphics and not user interfaces – having some idea of a user would have made all of the difference.

During other projects that were completely web-based, some stakeholders didn’t think that personas were necessary at all. From their standpoint, they knew EXACTLY what the customers wanted, how they would look for it, and what their journey looked like. It’s in those memories that I remembered being slack-jawed in the meeting room wondering how they could be that confident, ignorant, or a mix of the two.

Slowly though, I have been able to see a distinct change in businesses. Many larger companies are going back into the data of things. Finding the roots, the trends, and are working to predict potential needs and opportunities for market penetration. While a somewhat older way of identifying or mapping an audience, personas still have a use today. Either way, it is important to remember that research is necessary and without an overhead view of who you’re interacting with – you might as well be selling to three blind mice.

What have you noticed when working with or creating personas? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to read what you have to say!

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