Creating Personas

Today’s question comes from Jérôme Lacroix, who hails from the great city of Quebec:

Q: I was listening again to your Udemy course, and I was wondering where you see the persona creation process exactly? Do you create them after interviewing, or after you analyse and review the research? Thanks, and great job feeding us with UX articles!

A: For me the creation of personas always happens twice – first at the outset of the strategy phase, after I’ve spoken to client stakeholders and researched both the biz and its competitors (and social media sites). These are my educated guesses based on what I hear and see.

While I take the time to create them upfront, they are in no way finished; I think of them as “sketches” of people who may be using the product, and I fully expect to change them (or even throw them out) later. I expect to be wrong in some cases. The real goal at this point is to get your brain into the habit of thinking like prospective users.

Doing it immediately is important, in my opinion, because it frames your thinking properly, puts everything you do after that point in context. You don’t have to be RIGHT yet, you just have to be close.

After I actually get a chance to speak with actual users/customers – and preferably watch them in action – those initial personas get revised and brought closer to reality. And in some cases, new personas are developed. Don’t be surprised if there’s a big gap between what you learn from stakeholders and what you experience in actual user interviews. People often use things in ways that the client never intended, and as a result new people in new roles are often brought into the equation.

So to summarize, in my experience your personas will be more accurate – and your head will be in the right place throughout the project lifecycle – if you create them twice.

Thank you for the great question, Jérôme. I hope you find this helpful. And sincere gratitude for the kind words as well; I’m thrilled to hear you find what I share valuable, because that’s the point of sharing it!

Nearly every day I get messages from from designers and developers. You ask to pick my brain, for some best practice advice or insight on my own methods. And what I hear most often is that you feel unprepared and overwhelmed; that you have more questions than answers.

I owe a successful career to the fact that throughout my life, some very kind people took time out of their very busy lives to share what they knew with me. In that spirit, I’d like to pay that forward to all of you: you ask whatever’s on your mind and I will answer in a weekly blog post.

Ask me your most burning questions – from process to strategy to design to contracts to client politics. It’s all fair game and I will freely share what I know, mistakes I’ve made and what I’ve learned from them.

Click here to pick my brain!