Do you use formal personas when thinking about the users of a new app?
We don’t use personas. We use ourselves. I believe personas lead to a false sense of understanding at the deepest, most critical levels.
Every product we build is a product we build for ourselves to solve our own problems. We recognize our problems aren’t unique. In fact, our problems are probably a lot like your problems. So we bundle up the solutions to our problems in the form of web-based software and offer them for sale.
We recognize not everyone shares our problems, our point of view, or our opinions, but that verdict’s the same if you use personas. Making decisions based on real opinions trumps making decisions based on imaginary opinions.
I’ve never been a big believer in personas. They’re artificial, abstract, and fictitious. I don’t think you can build a great product for a person that doesn’t exist. And I definitely don’t think you can build a great product based on a composite sketch of 10 different people all rolled into one (or two or three).
Personas don’t talk back. Personas can’t answer questions. Personas don’t have opinions. Personas can’t tell you when something just doesn’t feel right. Personas can’t tell you when a sentence doesn’t make sense. Personas don’t get frustrated. Personas aren’t pressed for time. Personas aren’t moody. Personas can’t click things. Personas can’t make mistakes. Personas can’t make value judgements. Personas don’t use products. Personas aren’t real.
People talk back. People answer questions. People have opinions. People can tell you when something just doesn’t feel right. People can tell you when a sentence doesn’t make sense. People get frustrated. People are pressed for time. People are moody. People click things. People make mistakes. People make value judgements. People use products. People are real.
So if you can’t design something for yourself, design something for someone you know. Get that person or people involved in your project early on. Basing your decisions on a matrix of personality traits isn’t what I’d recommend if you really want to build a great product.