Personas: a valuable tool to get teams talking about users

I’ve worked on a lot of persona projects and I’ve found the resulting personas to not be very useful because it’s not always clear how the teams are going to use them. After personas are created, they are often never updated or looked at again. They sometimes become a poster on the wall, but that’s about it.

To be effective, personas need to be living, breathing people who represent user types for the project or product. Living and breathing means that they are revisited as the team learns more about users with each new project.

I prefer using Research Walls because they are more focused on the project or product and are more detailed and are based on real people and not just data. But the process of creating personas – even bad ones – is valuable to get teams talking about users.

Personas for Comcast Interactive Media – This persona project was to come up with a set of personas the represented all the diverse users of CIM services (email, voicemail,, DVR, streaming, etc).

ATM personas – Because personas were a deliverable for the engagement, we did them very quickly and unfortunately, at this point in the project, we didn’t talk to any users. We relied on the bank’s marketing information. Our end result mirrored their current marketing segments, which made them too general to really apply to the ATM screens we were designing for the project.

Often personas are not viewed as valuable because they don’t provide enough detail to be useful.