Personas are fictional characters typically created by marketers and developers to represent different user types that are likely to make use of their products and/or services. The purpose of a Persona is to provide developers and advertisers with a tangible character they can personally relate to, which helps guide their work as they design their product, service or user experience. 


Why does this work?

Personas are much more cognitively compelling than mere data about customers because they can put a human face to the target user, and are easy to communicate to development teams.


Studies suggest that developers using Personas create better usability attributes and have improved communication between design teams. Sounds like a great tool, right?! So, how are these Personas constructed? 


Personas can be very specific, or in combination with market segmentation, can be representative of a broad portion of the population sharing similar characteristics. They are created from data collected by interaction with and observation of the user population and are typically captured in a typed document which includes a narrative description of the user type’s environment, skills, needs, attitudes, behavioral patterns, goals, age, family and life history. 


But how do we really bring each Persona to life? Create a big, beautiful visual of course!


In collaboration with the Stewards of Change Institute (SOCI), I had the privilege of creating the face of several Personas being used to design greater interoperability amongst Health and Human Services (H&HS) providers.

Based on the SOCI’s research, a number of Personas have been developed for use. Four of them were chosen for a more detailed discussion in order to determine what could be done to provide the H&HS target users representative of these Personas with greater systems support.


In order to provide a face for these four Personas, and a large-scale Graphic Facilitation template for the purposes of discussion at several recent Symposia, I created an 8-ft mural for each Persona to bring them to life in living color.


Having visual representations of these written Persona descriptions were immediately useful to Symposia participants who could then quickly and easily refer to a whole user segment of their H&HS systems with a single Persona’s name and picture.

We used these Personas in both the large, 8-ft mural format for whole group discussions, and as printed worksheets for smaller, breakout group work. 


At the Symposia conclusion, when we compared results across all four Personas, we found that some services were unique to each Persona, while others were consistent amongst two or more Personas.


Based on this information, it became easier to prioritize what H&HS capacities to develop, and participants could depart the Symposia with clear indications of where to focus their resources in order to best serve their H&HS user populations.


I invite you to consider using Personas to facilitate development of your products, services or user experiences. And be sure to create a visual representation of each Persona for best results – a process I’d be more than happy to assist you with!