Tweaking personas: Mastering the hunt for the ideal user

Personas are a useful tool, almost always used badly.

By Laura Klein
August 18, 2015
Refracting light woodcut Refracting light woodcut (source: Flickr)

Personas have always struck me as a potentially useful tool that is almost always used badly. In theory, they’re great. Who doesn’t love a deliverable that is designed to get everybody on the team more familiar with the ideal user? Why wouldn’t we create something to help us focus our design and engineering efforts around the real people using our products?

Unfortunately, the reality rarely lives up to the hype. Personas, as they are created in many organizations, aren’t nearly as useful as they could be. They’re rarely based on real user insights developed during research. They tend to be overly broad and generalized. They’re descriptive, rather than predictive. And that’s just a few of the things people get wrong.

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In this podcast, Kate Rutter and I discuss (and sometimes fight about) what is wrong with personas and how we can make some important tweaks in order make them more useful for design and communication.

Obligatory warning: this podcast contains a small amount of swearing, a large amount of drinking, and a huge amount of curmudgeonly banter. Listen at your own risk and preferably with a nice glass of something tasty.

Editor’s note: this podcast is a cross-post from the User’s Know podcast, and is republished here with permission. The podcast also is available on iTunes.

Post topics: Design