Chapter 5. Modeling Users: Personas and Goals

Having gone out into the wide world to understand your users’ lives, motivations, and environs, a big question arises: How do you use this research data to come up with a design that will result in a successful product? You have notebooks full of conversations and observations, and it is likely that each person you spoke to was slightly different from the others. It is difficult to imagine digging through hundreds of pages of notes every time you have to make a design decision, and even if you had the time to do this, it isn’t entirely obvious how these notes should inform your thinking.

We solve this problem by applying the powerful concept of a model. Models are used in the natural and social sciences to represent complex phenomena with a useful abstraction. Much as economists create models to describe the behavior of markets, and physicists create models to describe the behavior of particles, we have found that using our research to create descriptive models of our users is a uniquely powerful tool for interaction design. We call these user models personas.

Personas provide us with a precise way of thinking and communicating about how users behave, how they think, what they wish to accomplish, and why. Personas are not real people, but they are based on the behaviors and motivations of real people we have observed and represent them throughout the design process. They are composite archetypes based on behavioral data gathered from the ...

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