Most personas don’t work. No matter how much data you collect, and no matter how well you analyze that expensive and hard-to-collect data, and no matter how great-looking your persona deliverables are, you still end up with the same problems you’d have without personas.
But of course personas still make sense to us. Of course having a clear and easy-to-understand description of your key users is helpful, and of course descriptions of people are easier to understand than data in bulleted lists. So why don’t they work?
There is no deliverable on earth that can displace closely-held, dearly-believed, fairly basic, not-quite-universally-shared assumptions about who key target users or customers are, and what the company or product should be offering to those users or customers. I italicized ‘assumptions’ because that’s become a dirty word and I don’t think it should be.
The only assumptions that can truly hurt your product are the ones you don’t know about. Invisible, unaligned assumptions are running amok in the minds of your executives, and theses are a much bigger problem than lack of data.
Alignment personas are built through a participatory workshop with key stakeholders, as high up the executive chain as you can get. The process starts with articulating clear business goals, which all exec teams think they have, and none of them actually do. Once you have clear business goals, and you create Alignment Personas and prioritize them with respect to those goals, you’ve done more to streamline your design process than you may realize. It’s at this point that you can choose to collect and apply data to your personas—but in the vast majority of cases, you won’t need to.
Yes it’s magic, yes it’s harder than it sounds, and yes I can teach you. Bring all of your objections and data-loving fury. We’ll hash it out based on years of experience and you’ll walk out with a new set of tools in your arsenal and a new perspective of the role of UX professionals as bringers of strategic- and business-related clarity and focus.
You will learn:
- All the reasons the persona projects you’ve tried haven’t worked, or haven’t worked as well as you thought they would.
- The step-by-step Alignment Personas (formerly Ad Hoc Personas) Workshop, including:
- How to get people on board, prep, and identify participants
- Types of business goals (corporate vs. product-specific), how to identify lame business goals, and how to write effective business goals
- The core workshop: words for users, the “yellow sticky” types-of-users exercise, the “pink sticky” wants-and-needs exercise, grouping pink stickies to identify persona candidates, and how to get from candidates to personas
- Elements of a truly useful persona description
- How to use Alignment Personas once you have them, including:
- Identifying any data that’s needed to ensure the persona are accepted (if any)
- Prioritizing personas with respect to business goals
- Using personas throughout your design process.
You will leave ready to run your own Alignment Persona workshop.