“We need personas (we think).”
I became fascinated with personas in 1999 thanks to Alan Cooper’s Inmates book. I coauthored the Persona Lifecycle books (2005, 2010) and developed the alignment personas method over the course of 15+ years consulting. I’ve seen it all when it comes to personas, so I can help with any personas-related scenario:
- We think personas might solve a problem that we have.
- We are personas-curious, but highly skeptical.
- We’ve tried personas before and they didn’t work. Now everyone has a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to personas.
- We know there are dozens of ways to do personas wrong. But we’re not sure how to do the right.
So, you should call me about your personas, but don’t expect it to be “another call with a personas agency.” Here’s what will happen: within five minutes, we will be discussing internal politics, turf battles, or a general lack of clarity and focus throughout your organization. You’ll tell me how you’re hoping that collecting a bunch of data and creating personas will finally show everyone how to be user-focused. And I’ll tell you why most persona efforts don’t work, why I still love personas and how transformational they can be, and why starting with data isn’t a good idea.
We’ve had immense luck with Personas at Zillow for everything from Development to Design to Sales to Marketing to ops. When we adopted it as an outside consultant project [in 2006], I never would have guessed it would become so embedded. I literally think there is never a meeting at Zillow where one of the personas is not cited by name.