Improve Your Design Process With Data-Based Personas

Most design and product teams have some type of persona document. Useful personas actually help design teams make better decisions because they can predict with some accuracy how users will respond to potential product changes.

Obviously, for personas to facilitate these types of predictions, they need to be based on more than intuition and anecdotes. They need to be data-driven.

So, what do data-driven personas look like, and how do you make one?

Start With What You Think You Know

The first step in creating data-driven personas is similar to the typical persona creation process. Write down your team’s hypotheses about what the key user groups are and what’s important to each group. You may choose to focus on a few particular personas, but make sure to keep a backlog of other ideas as well.

Aim for a short, 1–2 sentence description of each hypothetical persona that details who they are, what root problem they hope to solve by using your product, and any other pertinent details.

Validate And Refine

The next step is to validate and refine these hypotheses with user interviews. For each of your hypothetical personas, you’ll want to start by interviewing 5 to 10 people who fit that group.

Hybrid approach between a traditional user interview, which is very non-leading, and a Lean Problem interview, which is deliberately leading is recommended.

You’re looking for predictable patterns. If you bring in 5 members of your persona and 4 of them have the problem you’re trying to solve and desperately want a solution, you’ve probably identified a key persona.

On the other hand, if you’re getting inconsistent results, you likely need to refine your hypothetical persona and repeat this process, using what you learn in your interviews to form new hypotheses to test. If you can’t consistently find users who have the problem you want to solve, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get millions of them to use your product. So don’t skimp on this step.

Create Your Personas

The penultimate step in this process is creating the actual personas themselves. Unlike traditional personas, which are typically static, your data-driven personas will be living, breathing documents.

Every time you release a new feature or change an existing one, you should measure the results and update your personas accordingly.

Integrate Your Personas Into Your Workflow

Now that you’ve created your personas, it’s time to actually use them in your day-to-day design process. Here are 4 opportunities to use your new data-driven personas:

  1. At Standups
  2. During Prioritization
  3. At Design Reviews
  4. When Onboarding New Team Members

Keeping Your Personas Up To Date

It’s vitally important to keep your personas up-to-date so your team members can continue to rely on them to guide their design thinking.

As your product improves, it’s simple to update NPS scores and performance data. It is recommend doing this monthly at a minimum; if you’re working on an early-stage, rapidly-changing product.

It’s also important to check in with members of your personas periodically to make sure your predictive data stays relevant. Even if everything is going well, try to check in with members of your personas — both current users of your product and some non-users — every 6 to 12 months.

Wrapping Up

Building data-driven personas is a challenging project that takes time and dedication. You won’t uncover the insights you need or build the conviction necessary to unify your team with a week-long throwaway project.

But if you put in the time and effort necessary, the results will speak for themselves. Having the type of clarity that data-driven personas provide makes it far easier to iterate quickly, improve your user experience, and build a product your users love.

Via: Smashing Magazine


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