A Template for Design Personas: Analysis of 47 Persona Descriptions from Danish Industries and Organizations

A Template for Design Personas: Analysis of 47 Persona Descriptions from Danish Industries and Organizations

Lene Nielsen (IT University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark), Kira Storgaard Hansen (IT University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark), Jan Stage (Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark) and Jane Billestrup (Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/ijskd.2015010104
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The persona method is gaining widespread use and support. Many researchers have reported from single cases and from novel domains on how they have used the method. However, the way companies and design groups describe personas has not been the focus of attention. This paper analyses 47 descriptions from 13 companies and compares these to an analysis of recommendations from 11 templates from literature. Furthermore, 28 interviews with Danish practitioners with experience in using personas are analyzed for content on persona descriptions. The study finds that a Danish persona style has developed that is different from the recommendations in the lack of marketing and business related information and the absence of goals as differentiator for personas. Furthermore, the inspiration and knowledge on personas originates from co-workers and seminars and not much from literature. This indicates that the community of practice influences the persona style.
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Application Of The Persona Method

The personas method was introduced in the late 1990s within the IT sector and used in IT systems development. A persona is a description of a fictitious user constructed from different categories of field data - questionnaires, user interviews, observations, probes, and/or internal discussions. As the description is of a fictitious user, similar to existing persons, there is a common understanding in the literature that the persona has a name and often a photo accompanies the description in order to make the description as vivid as possible (Long, 2009). As the descriptions are to be used for design purposes they are not more than 1-2 pages long with several subsections. Personas are supposed to encourage a focus on the end-users in the design process. Here the persona is used both to create design solutions and discuss design ideas.

Since the late 1990s the method has become known worldwide and has spread to other areas outside IT, such as marketing, communication, and product development. Today the term “persona” covers a wide range of understandings of how to portray a (fictional) user, from capturing a project team’s pre-understandings of the users (Normann, 2006), to descriptions of specific user types based on large sets of data, analyzed to reveal the differences among the present and future users (Pruitt & Adlin, 2006). Personas are used for different activities ranging from a designer who uses the persona to imagine the end-user’s design preferences and needs, to marketing investigating how to address users.

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