Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Are Personas Useful?

Interesting discussion on The Persona Crutch.

Are personas useful? To me, they certainly are, just as a reference point for others on the development team ("Joe would find this feature very useful") and for myself, to help me envision the lives of users and to understand their world view. In short, for me to empathize with them.

Now, I agree with Andrei in that they can be misused and can be a shorthand for lazy thinking. They can be used to only create sympathy, and I'm not sure any great design can come from sympathy (although for testing it is useful). It's empathy I'm after, and personas are a step towards empathy. The designer has to take the final step (a leap really) from personas to a product. For a while, I was thinking about this topic for my Master's thesis paper: how to turn empathy into creativity.

This is an especially interesting conversation for me to follow now, since I am teaching personas next week in my class. Personas have become part of the standard toolset now (which is pretty amazing in itself, considering they've only been around for less than a decade), so much so that they are almost a cliche. But they aren't important per se, only in what they allow designers to do: generate empathy. If there's other methods to do this that a designer finds more comfortable (through drawing or writing), then my feeling is, knock yourself out. Ultimately, it's the end product and how much it empowers its users and changes the world that matters, not the methodology we use to create it.

Posted at 11:46 AM | comments (1) | trackback (0)


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